Agencies suspend coverage in row over restrictions

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The Independent Online

Yesterday, on the eve of the World Cup, several leading news and photographic agencies suspended coverage in a dispute with the sport's governing body over media restrictions.

Reuters, Agence-France Presse and Associated Press all said their journalists would not attend any World Cup events until the dispute over media credentials is resolved with the International Rugby Board. AP said it would not distribute stories, photos or television images to its subscribers.

"Most AP staff members assigned to cover the preliminary events this week have been unable to obtain credentials without first accepting terms proposed by the International Rugby Board which a broad coalition of news organisations finds unacceptable," David Tomlin, the AP's associate general counsel for news, said, adding that the agency has no plans for any coverage today.

"Reuters would like to resume coverage of the Rugby World Cup," Monique Villa, Reuters managing director of media said. "However, freedom of the press and our editorial integrity are at the core of our business, and these must be respected."

Alison Crombie, a senior director of public relations at Getty Images, said she did not know when the photo agency's coverage might resume, adding: "We're playing it by ear at this point."

AP, AFP and Reuters are part of a global coalition of news agencies and newspapers that has been negotiating with the IRB over reporting restrictions. The IRB has modified some of the original terms offered to the media for cup coverage but has refused to change others.

Tomlin said the two most troubling conditions were a requirement that news organizations post no more than 40 images online from matches in progress, despite an agreement in principle with the IRB two weeks ago that would have allowed several hundred, and a limit of no more than three minutes of news conference or locker room video posted online per match.

The dispute has caused deep confusion for journalists. Some were able to obtain credentials without signing any credential terms. Others signed terms but were able also to give written notice that they were not authorized to bind their companies to the IRB's conditions. Others were not able to obtain credentials because they refused to sign the terms.