Press Freedom at Stake as MEPs Vote on Sports White Paper European Parliament Mini Plenary 8th May 2008

A broad alliance of news media and journalists' groups today called upon the European Parliament to step back from endorsing moves by sports organisations to create open-ended protection for their events that will interfere with the way in which journalists report freely on major sporting events.

Tomorrow, May 8th, MEPs will discuss a White Paper on Sport and will vote on amendments which seek sweeping changes in rules including those that purport to establish, for the first time, new intellectual property rights specific to the events themselves.

News media and journalist organisations, including the European Publishers Council, the European Newspaper Publishers Association, the European Federation of Journalists and the News Media Coalition, warn that such a fundamental policy change, inventing new property rights in events, should not be adopted without understanding their impact on the freedom of the press to report on major events.

Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Chairman of the European Publishers Council said: "It is obvious that governing bodies are lobbying MEPs for newly- invented 'IP rights' including the protection of the event as a whole, information and spin-offs arising from the event, none of which exists under existing Intellectual Property Rights regimes. This is unjustified protectionism and injurious to press freedom".

Arne Konig, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists, said: "Sports organisations are making a grab for rights that don't exist and wouldn't make sense if they did. It's clearly against the public interest to make major public sports events off limits for legitimate journalism."

European journalists are also concerned as sports governing bodies already abuse the traditional press accreditation system in order to leverage control over news reporting.

In recent days, the media groups have sought to ensure that amendments to the White Paper do not undermine people's right to be fully informed about major events through normal journalistic operations.

The NMC said “We are concerned that amendments, which on the one hand recognise the importance of the news media's freedom to report, have not embraced the role of the press but only the role of reporting via audiovisual programmes. Furthermore, the sports bodies seem to want to become judge and jury as to what is "fair" in news reporting.”

Mr Balsemão said “News media and journalists accept the need to balance the interests of governing bodies and the press, but MEPs should be wary of adopting amendments which could damage press freedom. We need a more informed and detailed debate of the consequences before considering such steps," he said.

A further statement will be sent out following the Plenary vote. Journalists are invited to contact any of the spokespeople listed below for further information and/or feedback before or after the vote.

Contacts:

Angela Mills Wade, European Publishers Council, Tel: +44 1865 310 732; Opens window for sending emailangela.mills@wade.uk.net

Valtteri Niiranen, European Newspaper Publishers Association, Tel: +32 2 551 0190;Opens window for sending emailValtteri.Niiranen@enpa.be

Pamela Morinière, European Federation of Journalists, Tel: +32 2 235 2216;Opens window for sending emailpamela.moriniere@ifj.org

Andrew Moger, New Media Coalition, Tel +44 7836 572273; Opens window for sending emailandy@media-mojos.co.uk

ENDS.

Note to editors:

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is Europe’s largest organization of journalists, representing about 280.000 journalists in over thirty countries.

The News Media Coalition (NMC) is an international organisation focussed on the specific threat to editorial operations, publishing and independent journalism from excessive controls on the flow of news to the public imposed by events entities such as sports governing bodies through accreditation contracts. The NMC is a platform for the concerns of supporters, which include newspapers and publishers, national and global agencies, press freedom organisations and other media bodies, and journalist groups in many countries around the world.

The European Publishers Council (EPC) is a high level group of Chairmen and CEOs of European media corporations actively involved in multimedia markets spanning newspaper, magazine and online database publishers. Many EPC members also have significant interests in commercial television and radio.

The European Newspaper Publisher’s Association (ENPA) is the main advocate of the European newspaper publishing industry. With members from 27 European countries, ENPA represents the interests of over 5,200 national, regional and local newspaper titles, read by over 280 million Europeans daily.

This is the link to the report http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A6-2008-0149+0+DOC+WORD+V0//EN

Link with the published amendments http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sce/server/internet/amend_motions_texts/sce_amend_motions_texts_main_02.jsp?ref=A6-0149/2008