LAUSANNE, July 2, 2021 (Info / AIPS) – The occasion was the 97th birthday of the International Sport Press Association. The scenario, an online conference with speakers and colleagues from all around the world. The message, urgent and loud: we, the press, are not the enemy. Such were the words of AIPS president Gianni Merlo, asking for a joint solution to mitigate and cancel the restrictions before it is too late. “My first time in Japan it was in 1978, and I was welcomed by mister Hoshino, a colleague and a gentleman of Youmiuri Shinbun, who has shown to me the great hospitality of the Japanese people. But now the situation it is not the same. Today the topic very vital to our profession of this conference it is the access to sources. But it’s very important that we start with Tokyo 2020, which is going to begin very soon,” started Merlo, raising three visible points, as he showed the written rules of the official “Tokyo 2020 Accommodation: Working during special soft quarantine scheme”, the document that regulates what a journalist can, should and can’t do. 

Tracked down –  “This coronavirus has created some confusion in the hearth of the Japanese people and the organisers . We’ve received the Playbook for journalists that will be in Tokyo and it turns out that you need to have the GPS always on, so they can precisely know where you are at all times. If your battery fails, if your phone dies, then you have to explain what happened to the security. They want to know also who you will meet, and this is not correct, even if your own privacy is absolutely gone,” Merlo said.  

The 15-minute away rule you are out?- “Another thing that is incredible -went on Gianni Merlo- is that they tell us that we can have a meal in the press center or in the facility of the event that we are going, or you can eat in your hotel or buy some food in the special place, the so-called convenient store, but before going you need to ask the security staff and you need to come back in 15 minutes. If not, I don’t know what will happen. If there is a queue or you need to walk there, your 15 minutes are gone.   Not following these rules can result in the withdrawal of your accreditation. Can you imagine? You’ve spent thousands of dollars, you’ve quarantined, you’ve followed all the rules, and you can lose everything for being 20 minutes in a convenient store to pay for food. This is unacceptable”.  

Accreditation at risk – Another important subject raised by the AIPS president was the credible risk of being banned: “When you go out you need to tell the security guard where you are going, and fill all the records when you are back. This is like being a prisoner and the freedom of the people is really in danger. But there is a third thing, If identified walking outside, the security guard will ask you to go back to your room and inform Tokyo 2020 Organisers. An infringement could result in us being kicked out of Japan.  “And since we are described as ‘part of the Games’, the people are encouraged to photograph us and publish on social media when being outside. Can you imagine? They are asking to the population of Japan to follow every of our moves and put it in social media the possible infringement of the rules? This is the craziest of all, it can generate racism…” 

Joint solution needed – Calmly, the president made a call to review these regulations, appealing to the hospitality of Japan, that is well-documented. “We can’t judge Japan by this paper, because Japan is better than this. We need to find a solution together. We understand how difficult it is for them, but I can’t believe that the hospitality of Japan is this one. It’s a special occasion, but we are not in war.  

Freelancers terribly penalised – Another important matter was the situation of the self-employed journalists, the freelancers. “Many of our colleagues, most of them freelancers, or paying all their expenses because their newspapers or site do not do it, but they make a big sacrifice because they believe in sport and what they do, and these people are told by the organisers to move from the cheap hotels to the hotels recognised by the organisation, only to find out that these other hotels costed three, four times more. Is this the Olympic spirit? I doubt,” underlined Gianni Merlo. “ This is not acceptable, because who has not a big financial power cannot be penalised and put in a kind of ghetto in the world of sport journalism. In our category does not exist two category of journalists: the rich and the poor, we are not in the Middle Ages.

Olympic spirit is not for the “less rich”?  “Sport is culture and I’m sure that all the Japanese people agree with this idea. But the special occasion can lead into crazy ideas. We need to find out a solution together. We are not infectors. We are people that want to go to Japan because it is a great nation. I love their hospitality. The Olympic competition are important not only for the result, but for the meaning. We need to respect the media that are not so financially strong and want to be part of this spirit. Usually when someone imposes so many restrictions, they make a cut in the cost to find a balance, but instead they are making it more expensive”. 

Bringing hope – “We are coming there to bring a message of hope, not to destroy Japan. We are paying the mistakes of the government, because vaccination is still slow. But we are all fully vaccinated. The people of Japan should not look at us as the enemy bringing the coronavirus. We need to relax the situation all together, and hopefully with the vaccination process this can change before the start of the Olympics”.

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