(sportspress.lu / 15.03.2018) The national sportspress associations of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland met at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on March 13 and 14.

These twelve countries jointly decided in the autumn of 2017 that they would not attend the 2018 AIPS Congress then scheduled to be held in Antalya, Turkey given the current climate in that country regarding freedom of the press.

Even though the Congress has since been moved to Brussels, the twelve countries decided to go ahead with their meeting in Strasbourg because we feel several issues need to be addressed in the near future. One of these is the petition submitted to the European Parliament on the access to information and the right to inform about sports events.

We were joined by French MEPs Michèle Rivasi and Virginie Rozière who gave us advice on how we can strengthen our case. With a new hearing in the European Parliament coming up, the twelve countries agreed to feed the petition with several new cases where the right to inform about sports events has been infringed. AIPS then should produce an open letter to the international sports federations and the member states to highlight these infringements and to call for a dialogue between all parties involved to find solutions.

The twelve countries also discussed the challenges they each face. Many national associations are struggling to find younger members who are willing to work for their association as a board member, although Sweden and Switzerland prove that it can be done.

The low number of female sports journalists, and consequently the low number of female members, is another issue, although the situation is slowly improving in most associations.

In terms of working conditions, a common issue appears to be that players and clubs are increasingly communicating through their own social media platforms, effectively replacing press conferences or one on one interviews.

And in many international events, the mixed zone is in danger of becoming the far west, with an increasing number of accredited people turning up with cameras or usually smartphones, with no rules whatsoever for dealing with this. The twelve countries urge AIPS to develop common standards in partnership with the main international sports federations.

We also had a frank discussion with AIPS president Gianni Merlo, who joined us via a video link from Vigevano (Italy). The twelve countries insisted that the AIPS Congress should change and include more time for discussion about problems that are relevant for our members.

We will put forward the petition at the European Parliament and the social media issue to be included in the agenda for the AIPS Congress in Brussels.

David Naert

Vice president Sportspress.be

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