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Qatar Behind Paywall, No Al Jazeera America at UN in NY, French Control Like Peacekeeping?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 20 -- On August 19 inside the UN in New York City, after a day-long Security Council debate about the protection of civilians, the Qatar-funded channel Al Jazeera was no longer available, at least not in English.

  It used to be on the UN's in-house EZTV. But Monday night this turned to a Microsoft blue screen -- Windows 7, by the way -- and only the Arabic version remained available. On the Internet, the live stream of Al Jazeera English had ended, with instructions to lobby cable TV systems to include the new Al Jazeera America.

The Free UN Coalition for Access, which presses for media access of all kinds, asked the UN official in charge of UN TV, Stephane Dujarric, if the UN will be getting Al Jazeera America, or AJAM.

  While not yet responding to FUNCA (or Inner City Press) on a range of other UN media access issues, Dujarric to his credit did answer this one: "We hope to have Al Jazeera English back on air soon."

But how? The UN's EZTV uses Time Warner cable -- at least, its logo floats on the screen for other channels previously available in the UN that have now gone dormant, like BBC, TV 5 and MSNBC. And Al Jazeera America lists Time Warner as among the cable systems it says must be lobbied to put it on.

Will the UN lobby Time Warner? Or is it making other arrangements?

  Expanding into other issues raised without response by FUNCA such as the media covering the UN General Assembly now being confined to broken down photo booth, with no seats for the press or public inside the GA, and anonymous trolling by the UN's silent partner, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, "what of UNGA booth and other basic fixes raised since June?"

These "basic fixes" include issues like Dujarric's partner the UN Correspondents Association at least not attacking the Press with confidential complaints about questions being asked "too aggressively" of UN officials like Herve Ladsous and with anonymous social media trolling. Dujarric's supervisors long ago vowed the latter would end, but the problem continues even August 19, like the unfixed GA booths.

 (FUNCA began in December 2012 by asking the UN to adopt content neutral media accreditation policy and due process rules for journalists on stealth complaints like Voice of America's, after the UN didn't substantively respond to a related NYCLU request for these.)

  Dujarric counseled to "relax," and "patience," with a hashtag no less. But even just on the Al Jazeera issue, the August 20 imposition of a paywall (not that Qatar needs the money) was known of long in advance.

  Given CNN's, even CNNi's, rotation of stories, now international news options inside the UN are centered around French government controlled France 24.

  FUNCA will not relax with that -- France already controls UN Peacekeeping through Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the post. It's time to open up the UN, in this and other ways. Watch @FUNCA_info, and this site.


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