India-Pakistan cricket series boycotted
News services protest news blackout
Pakistan's first cricket tour of India in five years is set to be hit by a news blackout in an escalating row over press freedom.
The high profile tour kicked off with a Twenty20 international in Bangalore on Christmas Day, but all the leading news agencies, such as Thomson-Reuters and Associated Press, have decided against filing match reports.
The disagreement stems from an earlier decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to exclude photographic news agencies from covering games, including the recent Test series between India and England.
"It is regrettable that the politically-charged Pakistan tour will be affected by the BCCI's failure to recognize the long-standing importance of photographic news agencies in the flow of sport and news images every day," said the News Media Coalition, which represents a group of media organizations.
"As a direct result of the BCCI stance, great sporting moments from the cricket tours to India are going unrecorded and therefore lost forever. England's first four games were the hidden series and the Pakistan tour is heading for the same fate. That's not good for cricket -- nor for the image of India abroad," Andrew Moger, Executive Director of the NMC, was quoted on its website.
The BCCI offered it's own photographic content for the India-England series, but newspapers and leading websites outside of India declined to use them.
The BCCI is arguing that international news agencies such as Getty Images use the pictures for commercial as well as strictly editorial purposes and should pay a license fee.
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA), said in statement: "All publishers, including those in India are concerned that the BCCI has decided to act against the photographic agency sector which has for years provided images for editorial customers in every country without problem. This is denying the ability of editors to select from the best of photography for the benefit of readers."
As the row over media coverage escalated, security has been stepped up at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium ahead of the opening game.
Police bomb squad officers with sniffer dogs have undertaken a painstaking search amid fears that the game could be disrupted by protests from Indian nationalist organizations.
It is the first time Pakistan has visited India for a series of matches since the 2008 Mumbai attacks which led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between the two sub-continent nations.
But they did meet in the semifinal of last year's World Cup in the northern Indian city of Mohali when the prime ministers of both countries shook hands.
Indian cricket fans are still digesting the news that their iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar has retired from one-day internationals with immediate effect.
The 39-year-old Tendulkar had already retired from Twenty20 internationals, but was expected to have been available for the three 50-over one day international matches against Pakistan over the New Year period.
Over 3,000 Pakistan fans are expected to watch the opener and 60-year-old Mohammed Bashir, who lives in Chicago, told AFP that the fact the matches were going ahead at all was good news.
"That the teams are playing each other on Indian soil is in itself a big thing. We should not expect anything more to come out of this encounter," Bashir, who cut a colorful figure in the green and gold of Pakistan, said.
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