Monday, June 14, 2010

South Africa's lax security criticised

Journalists with The Associated Press and other organizations have repeatedly encountered lax security.

One AP editor has set off metal detectors several times without so much as a bag check. Another who misplaced his credential got into the media center without even being asked to show it. A photographer entering the Port Elizabeth stadium said guards barely glanced at the gear in her case, which included cables and radio transmitters.

At the stadium in Durban, an AP reporter wandered by mistake into the supposedly off-limits presidential section, observing crisp white tablecloths and wine glasses at the ready, but unquestioned by private security guards who were there.

SHOOT: As it should be.
clipped from
Soccer supporters pass through security as they arrive at Loftus Versfeld stadium ahead of the World Cup group D soccer match between Serbia and Ghana

JOHANNESBURG – Someone walks through a metal detector and the buzzer sounds. Smiling guards wave him forward without making him empty his pockets or even explain why the alarm might have gone off.

That scene, unthinkable at an airport terminal, has been repeated many times at several stadiums in the first days of the World Cup. With the attention of billions of soccer fans, the monthlong event hosted by South Africa could be a tempting target for terrorists.

The laid-back security treatment at stadiums and the main media center appears to be reserved mostly for credentialed visitors such as journalists and VIPs. Bag searches are often cursory or nonexistent, and credentials often are not closely examined.

Nevertheless, in a post-9/11 era when high security is the norm — and in a time when assassins posing as journalists have succeeded in killing public figures — security is visibly more porous than at other modern multinational events, including recent Olympic Games.

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