World newspaper owners have effectively declared war on FIFA ahead of the Germany World Cup in June after a breakdown in negotiations over picture rights.
The World Association of Newspapers has sent a strongly-worded letter to FIFA bosses saying: “Your restrictions on our journalistic coverage of the 2006 World Cup not only deprive our readers and clients of access to important information on a public event, but constitute both an interference in editorial freedom and independence and a clear breach of the right to freedom of information as protected by numerous international conventions.
“You have made it clear that FIFA rejects both these ideas and that, to express it bluntly, considers that ’business is business’.
“Beyond this, we are truly saddened and shocked that in the name of maximising the commercial exploitation of these events, FIFA should effectively turn its back on the news media which give life, on a daily basis, to football in all its different manifestations all over the world and have done so for decades.”
The dispute centres around the rights to publish pictures on websites. FIFA has insisted that no photos be published on websites until the final whistle of matches and limited the number of web published photos to five per match half and two for extra time including penalty shoot-outs.
FIFA claims the restrictions are needed to protect commercial contracts with those who have live broadcast rights.
The restrictions, which include conditions on how photos are used in print editions, have been imposed as a condition of access and accreditation to the World Cup.
WAN has now said it plans to “explore legal options” and inform World Cup sponsors of the “very clear loss of exposure from which they will suffer owing to FIFA’s publishing restrictions".
WAN also plans to alert German and European political leaders to this “violation of conventions on the free access to and free flow of information”.