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Ice Hockey Federation urged to denounce visa restrictions for journalists traveling to Belarus

Mr René Fasel, President
Mr Horst Lichtner, General Secretary
International Ice Hockey Federation
Zurich
Switzerland

29 January 2014

Dear Sirs,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and the World Editors Forum , which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries; the European Newspaper Publishers Association (ENPA), which represents 5000 titles in Europe and the News Media Coalition, an international organisation focused on eliminating the threat to legitimate news-gathering practices at major events, to express our serious concern at the visa restrictions being imposed on journalists wanting to travel to Belarus to cover the International Ice Hockey World Championships in May 2014.

According to reports, journalists must apply for a visa if they plan to cover any other story while in the country. This is despite an understanding that journalists would not need visas to enter the country if registered into the International Ice Hockey Federation system.

We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of international sports organisations to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their legitimate news gathering duties in all venues, and to ensure their partnership with host countries does not encourage or promote repression. Sport does not occur in a vacuum and by holding the event in Belarus, journalists will have a natural and legitimate interest and curiosity about the host nation, its society and practices.

We respectfully urge you to do all you can to ensure journalists accredited to your events are able to perform their role of informing the public while in Belarus, without fear or hindrance.

We also respectfully ask that, having chosen one of the most repressive regimes in Europe to host your event, that you take all possible steps to ensure that Belarus fully respects its international obligations to freedom of expression. We request that in future you think carefully before awarding the tournament to a country that does not support press freedom.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Tomas Brunegård
President
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Erik Bjerager
President
World Editors Forum

Ivar Rusdal,
President,
European Newspaper Publishers' Association – ENPA

Andrew Moger,
Executive Director,
News Media Coalition

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