CALIFORNIA — The committee organizing the World Cup soccer tournament is requiring that journalists agree to an FBI criminal history background check as a condition of obtaining credentials.
Applicants seeking accreditation were asked to fill out a waiver authorizing the FBI and “all state and local law enforcement agencies, consistent with applicable law(s), to release criminal history and criminal investigative records pertaining to me to World Cup USA 1994.”
The New York Times and other media organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, protested the requirement in mid-April.
“Certainly to carry on their livelihood, members of the media should not be required to yield their civil rights including such unwarranted intrusion into their sensitive personal histories as you require here,” wrote Times counsel George Freeman in a letter to Alan Rothenberg of the World Cup organizing committee.
Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee, protested to Rothenberg that members of the media are never compelled to submit to such scrutiny except in the most extraordinary circumstances. “The security interests implicated by staging a soccer tournament do not begin to justify such a requirement,” she wrote.
Rothenberg replied to the Reporters Committee in late April, saying that the organization’s lawyers and security people were considering the matter. “I can tell you, however, that the type of information that we are seeking is completely non-intrusive and does not constitute any invasion of privacy,” he wrote. He also contended that the actions are customary for assuring public safety at international events.
The Associated Press also protested the requirement in a letter to Rothenberg.
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.