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As UN Seeks to Ban Dissent, It Has Not Explained Its Double Standards

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 18 -- This UN is incompetent, petty and has no commitment to freedom of speech or association. Its Department of Public Information, which in 2012 worked with the UN Correspondents Association to try to silence or throw out the Press, started 2013 in a different way.

  Under a new chief of DPI, it met on January 17 and February 5 with the new Free UN Coalition for Access, on such issues as the due process rights of journalists and access to the Security Council.

  The new chief expressed openness. His deputy Stephane Dujarric repeatedly expressed a preference for the old UNCA, even saying "it's in everyone's interest that there is one organization... it's not feasible for the UN to deal with three or four federations of journalists."

  But as the talks continued, he found another way to try to bring this about. A meeting of UNCA and FUNCA was convened, as which UNCA's 2013 president Pamela Falk shouted that Inner City Press is not real journalism. She knew the meeting was on the record and said so; it was, and was written up.

  (At the same meeting, UNCA's first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters refused to explain Reuters' documented support for the campaign to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, audio here.)

  Then Dujarric issued a letter claiming that a never said "off the record" status was broken, and that FUNCA was not the right interlocutor. DPI negotiated a new set of rules with UNCA, trying to outlaw FUNCA fliers and even its sign, as well as banning press workspace from in front of the Security Council.

  Now -- no thanks to DPI -- some workspace on benches is set to be restored, after advocacy by FUNCA. But Dujarric's plot has borne fruit to this pathetic extent: he has Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit chief Isabelle Broyer pestering Inner City Press on June 14 and June 17 to take down a mere FUNCA sign on its door, by June 19.

   It's been raised to the chief and he said "Okay, I'll talk to them on Monday," June 17. But the pestering and threats have continued, without explanation.

And so at the UN's June 18 noon briefing Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: This goes to the idea that there can be more than one organization advocating for media access in the UN and I have been told by [the Department of Public Information] that any sign mentioning the Free UN Coalition for Access has to come down, whereas an [United Nations Correspondents Association] sign can remain up. And it seems so inconsistent with the UNís idea of kind of multi-party systems and freedom of speech... I haven't heard from the individual you usually refer me to [Stephane Dujarric] so I am asking you for a statement of how it is not just a violation of free speech and a sort of a favoritism.

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Iíll have to check with [the Department of Public Information] on that, Matthew, I donít have the information on that, okay.

Inner City Press: Wednesday seems to be the deadline for them to take it down.

   Despite this interchange, transcribed by the UN, and despite a reiterated request to at least three DPI officials including the chief, there has eight hours later been no response, no explanation. Now some explanation is promised.... on Wednesday. Watch this site.

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