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Paper Loses Nagano Credentials

January 25, 1998

NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ Olympic organizers have revoked a major Japanese newspaper company’s credentials to cover the Nagano Olympics for publishing unauthorized photos and stories of an opening ceremony dress rehearsal.

Though dress rehearsals are open to the media, organizers had asked that only material released by the organizing committee be published until the ceremony begins Feb. 7.

Even so, the 1.9 million-circulation Sankei newspaper published articles about the ceremony in its Sunday editions, including a front-page photograph of the torch-lighting by Albertville silver-medalist figure-skater Midori Ito.

``Sankei has clearly violated the terms of the coverage,″ Ko Yamaguchi, head of the organizing committee’s media division, said Sunday. ``It is an unforgivable act.″

Journalists for Sankei and its less respected sister newspaper, Sankei Sports, which also ran stories and photos of the opening ceremony, were immediately kicked out of the Olympic media center.

Sankei reporters also were banned from all Olympic facilities and news conferences, including the one in which the Nagano organizing committee announced the penalties.

Yamaguchi said he was discussing the matter with the International Olympic Committee. He said the final decision on whether Sankei will be allowed to cover the games, which run through Feb. 22, will be made after IOC officials arrive Wednesday.

Sankei officials refused to comment on why they ran the unauthorized material.

Tsutomu Saitoh, deputy chief of Sankei’s Olympic preparations, issued a terse statement late Sunday saying only that the newspaper hopes organizers will ``withdraw such measures as soon as possible.″

If its credentials are not reinstated, the punishment against Sankei would be far stricter than that meted out to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for printing similarly embargoed photos before the 1996 Summer Games.

The Atlanta paper was stripped of five of its six photo credentials for the opening ceremony.

Nagano organizers had been surprisingly open about their plans for the opening ceremonies, which will feature sumo wrestlers, traditional drums and world renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa leading an international rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

The organizers have said they disclosed much of the information in advance because people outside Japan may have difficulty understanding its traditional cultural elements.

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