NEW YORK — The committee organizing the World Cup soccer tournament backed down in late May from its requirement that journalists sign a waiver allowing an FBI criminal history background check as a condition of obtaining credentials. The compromise, however, will not stop the background checks.
In a letter to news organizations that had protested the requirement, James Trecker, senior vice president of the organizing committee, said his organization will require that individuals seeking credentials disclose their social security number. “We will set aside the formal security waiver procedure but will conduct traditional background checks off the social security numbers,” Trecker wrote.
The compromise had been proposed by attorneys for several news organizations, including the New York Times and the Associated Press.
Although counsel for the Times, the AP and USA Today all said they were satisfied with the World Cup’s adoption of their proposal, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press renewed its protest.
“Our position, in the simplest terms, is that a journalist affiliated with a recognized news organization or publication should not have to submit to a criminal background check to receive credentials for a sporting event,” wrote Jane E. Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee, in a letter to Trecker in late May.
“We fail to see how this proposal differs in substance from the policy it replaces,” Kirtley said.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.