Friday, April 20, 2012

AP journalists prevented from entering Bahrain to cover Grand Prix; Thomson Reuters sponsoring team

Two writers for the Associated Press (AP) are being prevented by the Bahraini government from entering the country to cover the Grand Prix scheduled for Sunday:
The two writers, based in Dubai, were expected to cover practice and qualifying along with Sunday's race. They have been granted accreditation to cover the race by the sport's governing body, the Paris-based International Automobile Federation. But they have been told by Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority that their visa applications to enter the kingdom are pending approval.
Other Gulf-based journalists working for international news organizations also had not received visas in time to cover Thursday's practice.
"We cover sports events throughout the world, under all kinds of circumstances, and we see no reason that journalists should be prevented from coverage in Bahrain," AP Managing Editor for Sports Lou Ferrara said. "The government should not dictate or prohibit sports coverage in any way."
The Bahrain GP was canceled last year because of anti-government protests, which have left nearly 50 dead since February 2011. But last week, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone declared the Gulf kingdom safe and decided to go ahead with the race.
Ecclestone said all 12 teams told him they were happy to travel to the island nation despite almost daily violent clashes between security forces and protesters.
Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority, which governs press issues in Bahrain, claims that the visas are being held up by "logistics."
Bahrain last year tightened its visa rules, including requiring advance clearance for journalists. Previously, journalists and others from many Western countries could receive visas upon arrival.
The AP and other news organizations have come under pressure from Bahraini officials and public relations consultants for extensive coverage of the uprising and anti-government groups.
Reuters maintains offices at Bahrain's $1.5 billion Bahrain Financial Harbour, but in May of last year, the Bahraini government expelled the one Reuters correspondent assigned to cover the country.

Thomson Reuters is a sponsor of the Williams team which is entered for Sunday's race.

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