New Delhi: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has come down heavily on Indian cricket authorities for preventing a section of the international news media from covering the ongoing Test series between India and England.
International news organisations suspended text and photo coverage of England's cricket tour of India because of new restrictions introduced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The IOC Press Commission Chairman, Kevan Gosper called on the International Cricket Council to intervene and allow news organisations free access to the cricket matches.
"The IOC strongly disagrees with these moves by the BCCI, which we believe are a direct attack on the freedom of the media to report from sporting events, and shows contempt for the sporting public around the world who would otherwise like to follow these important matches," Gosper said in a statement.
"We would hope that the ICC intervene and that sports administrators refrain from interfering with and placing restrictions on the vitally important role of media to freely report from sporting events," he added.
The BCCI has barred photo-only agencies from covering games and made a small number of its own photographs available to media.
Other international news organisations have also suspended coverage. The British press has refused to publish photographs of the match between India and England that started in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
"Photographers are news gatherers, and must be granted appropriate access to do their job," said Gosper.
Editors of Britain's national newspapers have also joined the chorus to protests against the BCCI because the photo agencies are regular suppliers of specialised press sports photography.
A number of newspaper trade associations and editors around the world have taken up the issue. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have also criticised BCCI's policy.
"It is simply unacceptable for the Board of Cricket Control for India to take it upon themselves to refuse accreditation to legitimate news agencies, and to tear down the traditional role that independent news media plays in bringing sport news to the public," said Jacob Mathew, President of WAN-IFRA and Executive Editor and Publisher of the Malayala Manorama Group of Publications in Kerala, India.
"Photos are an integral part of news coverage," he added.
The BCCI has locked out Getty Images, Action Images and two Indian photo agencies. The decision to refuse accreditation led to a decision by Thomson Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press to suspend reports about the tour as well as pictures.
The Press Association, national agency in the United Kingdom, is also not supplying photographs.
Bob Satchwell, Executive Director of the Society of Editors, said, "Editors will be angered by this decision of the BCCI and confused by the motives. They just want to do the best job they can for their cricket-loving readers by choosing from the best news material.
"By damaging the ability of the press to cover cricket, the good name of the game also risks damage."
The News Media Coalition (NMC), an international organisation which defends the ability of the press to inform the public with independent news material, has urged the BCCI to withdraw its policy.
Andrew Moger, Executive Director of the NMC, based in London, said, "The IOC's common sense position towards the media and criticism of the BCCI is a welcome intervention in the debate. It's the BCCI which is the odd one out here.
"Usually sports and their sponsors lap up the massive exposure generated by coverage including objective press photography."