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Russia Blocks Reporter Who Broke Doping Scandal From Covering World Cup

German TV channel ARD reporter Hajo Seppelt
German TV channel ARD reporter Hajo Seppelt

Russia has denied a visa request to report on next month's soccer World Cup events from a German investigative journalist who broke the Russian doping scandal story.

Hajo Seppelt's employer, German public broadcaster ARD, said on May 11 that he was put on a list of "undesirable persons" who are not allowed to enter Russia. ARD called it an "attack" on journalism.

"This is due to the fact that we are saying things which are critical of Russia, that we lifted the veil in 2014 on Russia's state doping system," Seppelt wrote on ARD's website.

"One can assume that this is part of a revenge campaign," said Frank Ueberall, chairman of the German Journalists' Association.

"I can only hope that [Russian] politicians will reconsider their decision," said ARD program director Volker Herres.

ARD said that giving open access to media representatives was a precondition for Russia to win the competition for hosting the World Cup.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage and called on soccer's world governing body, FIFA, to "denounce Russia's decision" and work to ensure that Seppelt would be allowed to enter the country to cover the games.

FIFA said in a statement that it had already validated Seppelt's accreditation request.

"Freedom of the press is very important to FIFA and we want to offer media representatives the best possible conditions for them to perform their jobs," FIFA said.

Seppelt's reporting on doping in Russian sports helped prompt an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which issued a report in 2015 finding widespread doping across a spectrum of sports with backing from the Russian government.

The WADA report led to the banning of hundreds of Russian athletes at the 2016 and 2018 Olympics and other major sporting events and the suspension of several Russian sports federations.

Based on reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters

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