Tennis writers at US Open to face FBI probe

US Open: security screening

Tennis correspondents covering next month’s US Open in New York have reluctantly agreed to a one-off accreditation deal which leaves them open to investigation by the FBI and the CIA.

In a summer of discontent when journalists and photographers have had to fight off attempts at new restrictive controls by sports governing bodies, the US Tennis Association demand is the most nightmarish.

For security reasons, it says, every member of the media covering the Open must sign an agreement authorising the USTA to see all their records, including driving and criminal history, and to investigate their background using "any criminal justice agency". It also asks for indemnity against journalists claiming losses if they are found ineligible to cover the tournament.

Richard Evans, tennis correspondent for The Sunday Times and BBC Radio and President of the International Tennis Writers’ Association, told Press Gazette: "The USTA has reduced the demands somewhat, not totally to our satisfaction. We have got them to add a clause which says that if the FBI, which is demanding this, refuses accreditation through mistaken identity, the USTA will reimburse the journalist for loss of earnings.

"We were very unhappy at signing a form which virtually gives any criminal investigation agency in the US the right to interrogate us and delve into our backgrounds. But we are very cognisant of the fact that this event ends three days before September 11.

"We don’t accept this is a precedent. We have signed reluctantly but it’s still an individual choice. We are not instructing writers to sign or not sign."

Meanwhile, photographers have overturned proposed restrictions on the use of pictures taken at the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield. Freelances Phil Sheldon and Matthew Harris, PA’s Rebecca Naden and The Times’s Hugh Routledge persuaded the Open’s organisers to withdraw the proposals. Sheldon said: "I feel we will have to fight the battle again next year but we did lay down some strong very strong principles." An uneasy truce was called over attempts to control interviews and pictures at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

By Jean Morgan

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