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Whistleblowers and journalists: The dangers of speaking up

In a panel about the dangers of whistleblowing in sport, lawyer and blogger Eloy Viera Cañive discussed censorship in the Cuban sports media and the intertwined relationship between sport, politics, and propaganda. In Cuba, sports are organized through government entities, not private associations. Cuba’s constitution, Article 54, recognizes “…the broadest freedom of speech and opinion” however, not when it involves government entities. Since sports are organized through the government, many of the types of sports stories Cuban sports journalists would want to cover (e.g., Cuban athletes’ new lives in the U.S., decreasing subsidies toward Cuban sport, exodus of top talent) could be considered a criticism of the government. And whoever “threatens, slanders, defames, insults, or in any way offends, verbally or [in writing], public officials or their agents, incurs a sanction of deprivation of liberty from 3 months to a year.” As Canive said, criticizing sports in Cuba IS criticizing the government. Kirsten Sparre, assistant professor at the Danish School of Media and Journalism at Aarhus University, presented on the dangers of working in sports journalism, particularly the criminal offenses carried out against female sports journalists. According to her study, 50 of the 78 incidents she coded for, across 35 countries and six continents, were related to football coverage. (See picture) ARD German TV’s Hajo Seppelt discussed the International Olympic Committees’ handling of whistleblowers and said improvements were needed, as well as financial support from WADA. This support would lead to more athletes being comfortable speaking out, he argued – especially when their lives are being threatened. There was also a general discussion about the need for sports journalists to be better educated on how sports actually work – as businesses and as governing bodies.

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