The poor behaviour of journalists at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the Ivory Coast has prompted the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to issue a new set of guidelines and tighten up media access following consultation with the local police.
Away from the on-pitch drama at AFCON, the actions of journalists has been an unhappy subplot, with abuse, fighting and near-nudity making headlines from the press box.
“There was someone dancing naked in the media tribune,” a CAF media official said to assembled journalists at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan on Friday, while explaining the new guidelines. “We cannot have that.”
A statement issued by CAF on Friday, as seen by ESPN, revealed that the continent’s football governing body have taken steps to reduce what they deem as “unprofessional and unbecoming behaviour” after consulting with Ivorian authorities.
“CAF has noted the escalating unbecoming and unprofessional behaviour of some ‘media practitioners’ in working spaces at the Africa Cup of Nations,” the statement began. “CAF met with the Local Organising Committee and police to discuss the situation and find workable solutions.
“While we understand that we are all football fans and are passionate about our national teams, journalists are expected to observe professional standards.”
CAF have said they will expel and remove the accreditation of any media practitioner involved in “wild celebrations and abuses other media colleagues,” while also announcing a zero-tolerance approach to fighting among journalists.
“Any media practitioner who uses vulgar [language] in media areas either against coaches, players or his/her peers will have the accreditation withdrawn,” the statement added, with live streaming in the mixed zone, use of drones, and unauthorised media filming within the stadium also banned as part of the clampdown.
In light of Ghana’s 2-2 draw with Mozambique, accredited journalists shouted abuse at players in the mixed zone before heckling head coach Chris Hughton, who had been accosted by a supporter in the team hotel earlier in the competition.
The Ivory Coast players were also barracked by reporters following their 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea, while matches between Senegal and Guinea, and Morocco and South Africa also saw clashes between jostling press packs.
The final straw appears to be the behaviour of an accredited Ivorian reporter during his side’s victory over Senegal, with footage circulating of the journalist’s near-naked dance in the media tribune.
“Between pitched battles, attacks, invectives, it is a distressing spectacle that certain colleagues have been delivering to the world since the start of AFCON,” the International Sports Press Association said in a statement.
“The media workspaces [press gallery, mixed zone, conference room] have been transformed into a boxing ring, or even simply transformed into a dancefloor or performance zone hosted by media badge holders.”
Media access to Nigeria’s quarterfinal against Angola in Abidjan on Friday was being regulated to a degree not before seen previously at the tournament. A maximum of 250 journalists were being admitted to the media tribune, with photographers’ access also being limited.