RFE/RL correspondents face difficulties obtaining or retaining accreditation in several countries in its broadcast region. Governments misuse accreditation to deny journalists the rights and means to cover important stories, thereby depriving the public of important information. Lacking the professional and legal recognition that accompanies accreditation, unaccredited journalists work at risk.
In 2005 the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) recommended that “accreditation should be used to facilitate access of journalists to officials and lack of it should not be used to deprive them from the possibility to work.”
A subsequent 2006 OSCE report
found that misuse of accreditation was on the rise, with governments treating it as a work permit to exercise control over journalists. The report states, “Because accreditation is the mechanism that enables a broad spectrum of journalists to report on events of public interest and to allow them to comply with security arrangements, it should not be used by official bodies as the means to select preferred journalists on the basis of political affiliation or as a reward for presenting a certain account of events.”
Recent RFE/RL experience in Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia – particularly in the North Caucasus - shows that accreditation is politicized in many countries, and that its misuse continues.
...accreditation should not be used by official bodies as the means to select preferred journalists on the basis of political affiliation or as a reward for presenting a certain account of events...
The OSCE report cites examples of misuse in Uzbekistan, where regulations dictate what foreign journalists may report. Failure to comply can result in detention, imprisonment and deportation. Since the massacre in Andijon in 2005, accreditation is de facto
beyond the reach of any independent, local reporter.
Belarus also has regulations governing the coverage of social and political events. It maintains a quota system for accrediting journalists that it applies selectively, and has recently stripped a journalist of accreditation in retaliation for coverage of sensitive events.
Independent journalists in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia – in the North Caucasus, in particular - are routinely denied accreditation, and yet unaccredited journalists face harassment, detention and threats. Despite submitting official applications repeatedly over several years, RFE/RL has not once received a response from the Turkmen government to accredit correspondents there.Media freedom
has suffered dramatic declines across Eurasia this decade, as a recent Freedom House study documents. OSCE governments should adhere to the RFoM's concluding 2006 guidance and hold member states to account: “Accreditation should not be the basis on which governmental bodies decide whether to allow a particular journalist to attend and cover a public event. Further, the threat of revocation of the accreditation for any event should not be used as the means to control the content of critical reporting.”