No "Gens Una Sumus" for Russian chess journalist? (UPDATED)
Evgeny Surov, the editor-in-chief of the popular Russian news site Chess-news, is not allowed to work at the Olympiad in Istanbul. Last week Surov received an email from the Turkish organizers in which it was said that he wouldn't receive press accreditation, but Surov travelled to Istanbul anyway. Today the Russian journalist was not allowed to enter the playing hall, not even as a spectator.
Although there was quite some controversy in the last few months towards the Olympiad, with arbiters from seven federations rejected and all, most chess players and fans are mostly happy that the biennial event has started. Because indeed an Olympiad is something special, a fantastic gathering of hundreds and hundreds of strong players trying to do their very best for their country. However, before we'll discuss the results and games of the first round (in a separate post), we cannot ignore what happened to one of our colleagues on the first day.
In fact the story started a week ago. Like all journalists, Evgeny Surov had applied for press accreditation in order to report on the Olympiad from Istanbul for his popular Russian website Chess-news. But, on Monday, August 20th he received an email from the Olympiad's press coordinator which said:
Since you are not a journalist, we will not accredit you for the olympiad.
In the same email it was mentioned that Surov wouldn't receive accreditation as a spectator either.
After receiving the email, Surov contacted several chess officials and eventually decided to travel to Istanbul anyway. He did manage to attend the opening ceremony on Monday, and there he tried to resolve the situation with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. According to Surov, in a private conversation Ilyumzhinov said that he "would try to settle things during the day of the first round". However, when Surov went to the playing hall on Tuesday, he was not allowed to enter.
Shortly after the start of the first round, there was a press conference with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos and FIDE Vice President Ali Nihat Yazici. Ilyumzhinov started by welcoming all journalists and guests, but the Surov situation wasn't discussed.
So why is the Chess-news editor not allowed to work at the Olympiad? Surov himself thinks that it was this critical article about the 2011 Women's World Team Championship that has upset the Turkish organizers. In the article it was suggested that some teams were considering not to attend the tournament, and later the team from the USA indeed decided not to participate, "after serious consideration of multiple issues and several topics that were a concern to us".
In a Skype conversation on Tuesday night we asked Al Nihat Yazici, the President of the Turkish Chess Federation and main organizer of the Olympiad, why Surov wasn't given accreditation. Yazici didn't want to go into details, but he did said the following:
With this guy I do not want to spend time... Really! I have more important things to do. He is not a journalist. Let me give you an example I faced in 1994. It explains the situation. In 1990 private pirate radios and televisions in Turkey exploded like mushrooms, since the laws were not passed. I had a friend (...) and he told me how he became rich. He opened a radio station (private and pirate) in Antalya. Between the lines, the law of broadcasting was passed in 1994 by the State. He started broadcasting and became very rich in 2 years. I asked him the reason, and he told me that he goes for example to a big restaurant. He speaks to the owner, saying that "Mr. X, we heard many complains about the hygiene of food in your restaurant. We do not believe those claims. We want to correct it by good advertising." If the owner of the restaurant accepted, he was pampering the restaurant. Otherwise, he was producing many gossips about the restaurant. You got it? There is no difference with the case!
Meanwhile, at Chess-news a big banner is put up with the text
FIDE! Give Us A Chance To Work
Forget "Gens Una Sumus" Motto
Update August 29th, 19:04
Surov has now written an open letter to two officials of the Russian Chess Federation, Arkady Dvorkovich and Ilya Levitov:
Dear Arkady Vladimirovich and Dear Ilya Vladislavovich!
I would like to tell you about my outrageous experience as a Russian journalist at this time of the Olympiad in Istanbul. As one of the FIDE’s leaders, Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici, with sufferance of Mr. Makropoulos and Mr. Ilyumzhinov, are violating not only their slogan «We are one family» but also my rights as a journalist and human.
Before the beginning of the Olympiad I received very aggressive letter from the organizing committee. Saying that according to instructions, I would not be allowed to attend the event nor as a journalist, nor as a guest. The reason provided was «since you are not a journalist».
The president of Association of Chess Professionals and the member of the FIDE's WCOC Mr. Emil Sutovsky supported me and asked Mr. Makropoulos to influence the decision. A few days later Mr. Sutovsky wrote another letter with an urgent request for an official response, but was met with silence.
A letter to the FIDE's president assistant Berik Balgabaev also remained without an answer. Only after my second letter, in telephone conversation with Mr. Balgabaev I was told that he does not agree with Mr. Yazici but there is nothing he can do about.
I was pleased to know Mr. Balgabaev’s opinion, but I addressed my appeal not personally to him but to the organization he represents. And the name of the head is well-known.
For this reason I appealed next to Mr. Ilyumzhinov. On the Olympiad's opening day Mr. Ilyumzhinov confirmed that he received my letter and promised to investigate the situation the next day.
I suppose you all know what has happened that «next day». Security at the hall simply sent me away with no reason or explanation. In an hour Mr. Ilyumzhinov thanked Mr. Yazici and Mr. Makropoulos for the perfect organization of the Olympiad. It is evident the answer of the FIDE's president on my request was not straightforward – though very convincing.
Dear Arkady Vladimirovich and Ilya Vladislavovich! I ask you to assess this situation and intervene. I ask you to stand upon my rights, including my fundamental right to practice profession, and the rights of tens of thousands of Russian-speaking chess amateurs' to receive trustworthy information from the Olympiad which they wish to follow on the website of which I am the editor-in-chief.
On this website you may find different comments. Amateurs have different thoughts on many questions and problems regarding the chess world. But there is an unanimous consent among all of them that they understand that this situation harms not me personally but the whole world chess community.
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