Football officials have banned publication of digital images showing action from next year?s World Cup finals in Germany until one hour after the final whistle.

The controversial rules ? laid down by football?s governing body FIFA ? will mean that websites will not be able to publish any images until the one-hour picture embargo is lifted. Press covering the matches will have to agree to these terms before FIFA grants photographers access to the finals which start on 9 June 2006.

?This is a severe curb on the freedom of editors to inform their readers,? said Timothy Balding, director general of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) – a group representing newspapers, agencies and press organisations.

He added: ?Editors the world over will be simply unable to provide readers with the information they have come to expect in the instant-news epoch.?

Internet and mobile phone content providers will only be able to publish pictures before the embargo if they have already bought licences to show images, according to the WAN.

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