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Parliamentarians uphold press freedom in vote on sports white paper, say media groups

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a media release from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ regional group:

MEPS Vote for Press Freedom in Sports Coverage

MEPS voted today, 8 May, on a White Paper that recognises the importance of sports journalism in Europe.

Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had proposed amendments to the Mavrommatis report on sport, which would have severely limited the freedom of news media to report freely on sports events, for the enjoyment of their readers across Europe.

Following a call by media and journalists' organisations (European Publishers Council, EPC; the European Newspaper Publishers Association, ENPA; the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ; and the News Media Coalition, NMC) for MEPs to protect the freedom of the press and the rights of the public to be informed about major sporting events, the MEPs rejected these harmful amendments and voted today as follows:

MEPs voted in favour of the amendment to paragraph 70 (number 12), which seeks to create a balance between the interests of the sports organisations and the role of the press in reporting on sporting events.

MEPs voted in line with news media and journalists' concerns for paragraphs 64 and 68 (thereby acknowledging that "sports copyright" is an invented right), but unfortunately voted for an amendment in paragraph 65 which appears to discriminate against print news media in favour of audiovisual media.

EPC Chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemao said: "As news organisations with large, sports-hungry audiences and readers, we are relieved and delighted that the European Parliament has largely rejected moves to empower sports event organisers to the detriment of press freedom and, ultimately, of the public."

ENPA President Valdo Lehari Jr., who led the recently-concluded negotiations with UEFA on Euro2008 ATCs, added: "We are satisfied that, by rejecting two potentially dangerous amendments, the European Parliament has recognised the unique role of the media to access and report on sports events on events of significant public interest."

EFJ chair Arne König said: "Today's vote in the European Parliament is a great victory for journalism. It is in the public interest to make sure that journalists report freely on sports events. Introducing new intellectual property rights for sports event organisers would have been a great step backwards for press freedom".

The EPC, ENPA, the EFJ and the NMC are keen to stress that the right of sporting bodies to manage, commercialise and benefit from the success of their sports is not in question, and their achievements in doing so have been remarkable and notable in the past few years. However, the role of the media in that success is also significant, with there being no evidence of any detrimental effect on a sport due to media coverage. Furthermore, the current legal framework of copyright and contract law is robust and comprehensive and provides the necessary tools for sports event organisers and the media to negotiate and implement a balanced and fair agreement.

A spokesman for the NMC said: "There was never any case for a change in the law, and the changes proposed would have represented a serious reduction not only in the freedom of the press, but also the freedom of individuals within society to learn about, understand and be entertained by sport without undue interference."

Details on the amendments in question can be seen here: http://europe.ifj.org/assets/docs/227/016/e80a3e3-cbeb210.pdf

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