Controversy surrounds media procedures for Sochi Olympics

Amidst the confusion amongst multiple reports that journalists are prohibited from using certain types of social media and taking pictures with their cellphones, International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams refuted the reports. In an email sent to USA Today sports blog For the Win, Adams stated: “Please take as many photos as you like!”

by WAN-IFRA Staff | November 12, 2013

The blog points out that “Adams’ statement is also in line with the official social media policy posted on the Sochi Olympics official site,” which it quotes as follows:

“Accredited media may freely utilise social media platforms or websites for bona fide reporting purposes. Photos taken by accredited photographers may be published for editorial purposes on social media platforms or websites in accordance with the Photographers Undertaking. The Olympic symbol – i.e. the five interlaced rings, which is the property of the IOC – can be used by accredited media for factual and editorial purposes, for example in a news article covering the Olympic Games. All other provisions of these Guidelines apply.”

This contradicts the earlier reports from Russian news source The translated excerpt of the article states:

“‘The use of mobile phones by journalists who write for the filming of athletes or spectators will be considered a serious violation and will result in cancellation of accreditation,’ – said the head of the Agency’s edition of sports news Vasily Konov.”

While it appears that journalists will be able to take photos with smart phones and use social media to update the rest of the world on the sporting events taking place, filming of the competitions with “amateur” equipment is still reportedly prohibited.

The controversy surrounding journalists and the upcoming games does not end there. The French Press reports that Russian security agencies will have access to and monitor all phone and Internet communication by spectators, journalists, and athletes. The system, called Sorm, will allow Russian authorities to intercept all forms of phone and internet communication.

Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of Citizen Lab, an independent research firm involved with the Sochi 2014 Olympics, told the GuardianEven as recently as the Beijing Olympics, the sophistication of surveillance and tracking capabilities were nowhere near where they are today.”

And then there was the case of two Norwegian journalists being arrested multiple times around the Sochi area that was reported by the Human Rights Watch website. The journalists were arrested six separate times while producing a feature story on the Republic of Adgyea, a region bordering Sochi and Black Sea. Among other things, the reporters were accused of being under the influence of drugs.

With the opening ceremonies set for 7 February 2014, there are sure to be more updates and policy changes as Russia prepares to host its first Olympic Games since the former Soviet Union hosted the summer games in 1980 in Moscow.

Report by Salim Valji

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