WITH little more than two months to go before media accreditation for the World Cup closes, governing body Fifa and local media are locked in a standoff over restrictive terms and conditions imposed by Fifa on journalists and their publications, writes Wyndham Hartley in Business Day.

At issue is a clause in the accreditation agreement that binds publications to the same rules as those that bind their reporters attending matches or official Fifa events, and a clause which says behaviour harmful to the image of Fifa and the local organising committee can be punished by summary withdrawal of accreditation.

There is also concern over a clause allowing Fifa to revoke the accreditation of a reporter and his or her publication without discussion and without any mechanism to address the “breach” that caused the withdrawal of the accreditation .

The first clause would prohibit normal coverage of a normal news event at a Fifa venue, such as a labour strike at a team hotel, by a reporter not accredited to the event. There is concern the second clause would prevent critical reporting of the World Cup and its organisation.

South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) representative Raymond Louw, one of several journalists who have been negotiating with Fifa over the points of conflict in the accreditation agreement for more than a year, believed South African journalists would cover the World Cup.

He said some sort of agreement with Fifa was possible. Hopefully this would include the addition of words saying normal editorial practice would prevail in cases of reporting that was potentially critical of Fifa.

“The ban on behaviour negatively affecting the public standing of Fifa or the Local Organising Committee is mitigated by the ‘independent journalism’ statement but still requires the clarification that normal editorial reporting etc, is not affected,” Louw said.

It also appears the media will have to sign agreements before they have had sight of the codes of conduct. Part of the problem is that, to apply for accreditation, media organisations have to sign up to the media channel on Fifa’s website and, once this is done, they are bound by Fifa’s rules before they have even seen the terms and conditions.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.