BY INSI

Covering the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Over the past six months, INSI has held a series of events for its members focused on covering the FIFA World Cup. The following information is a summary of our members’ advisories on covering the Russia 2018 tournament safely.

Experts downplayed the threats of hooliganism and terrorism at the FIFA World Cup in Russia in June but warned journalists they may be under constant cyber scrutiny by the authorities – even before arriving in the country

General advice

  • The medical situation outside Moscow and St. Petersburg is poor and some hospitals do not have hot water. Hospitals insist on cash payments before any treatment.
  • Traffic gridlock and a high rate of road traffic accident deaths make public transport a safer option than driving.
  • Drink bottled water.
  • Russian law requires everyone over the age of 18 to carry their passport with them at all times.
  • Make sure all staff know the procedures in the event of a security (physical or digital) incident, and any suspicious activity is reported immediately to the nominated daily contact.

Hooliganism/hate crimes/violence

  • There’s unlikely to be a repeat of the same levels of violence seen at the Euro 2016 football tournament.
  • Authorities have led an unprecedented crackdown against Russian hooligan “firms”. Measures include tougher laws and a wave of arrests and searches targeting the most violent groups.
  • Analysts aren’t worried about violence inside the stadiums, which have heavy security in and around the venues, but believe it is possible away from the central areas. Public spaces where fans congregate (such as fan zones) are possible flashpoints.
  • Ethnic minority and LGBTQ journalists are at particular risk of harassment.
  • Alcohol fuelled violence between supporters in the stadiums is less likely as drinking has been banned or severely curtailed during football matches.

Terrorism

  • ISIS supporters, working alone or in small, autonomous cells (5-6 people) with connections to the Middle East, are the most likely to carry out any attacks that take place.
  • Attacks originating from the North Caucasus are also a possibility but are considered less probable than during the Sochi Olympics
  • Barriers will be in place around major venues to mitigate against vehicles ramming crowds. Bombs inside stadiums are unlikely due to heavy security. 

Digital/cyber security

  • Always assume you are being monitored. Don’t go anywhere without someone knowing where you are.
  • Never leave your laptop unattended, even in your hotel room. If you must leave your laptop, consider putting it in a plastic bag, sealed with a branded seal, so you know it hasn’t been tampered with.
  • Using hotel or public Wi-Fi isn’t recommended as it does not afford high levels of security and is vulnerable to being hacked.
  • If you are using a VPN, remember that end-to-end encryption is illegal in Russia without a license. WhatsApp is commonly used however.

Image by AFP