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On Its Malala Day, UN Silent on Media Access as Bans Press from GA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 – Three hours before the UN's Malala Day, media access to the Youth Assembly as which she will speak is still left murky by the UN.

More than a week ago on July 3, the UN Department of Public Information announced that “Education activist Malala Yousafzai will mark her 16th birthday, on Friday, 12 July 2013, by giving her first high-level public appearance and statement...a limited number of seats will be available for media, contact” the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit.

Inner City Press immediately wrote to MALU, also on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, asking

this is a timely request for access to cover youth / Malala events on July 12. Please confirm, and also, How many media seats ARE available? Also, what about media seats to cover the new / interim General Assembly hall, and separately, media worktables in the photo booths, as the Free UN Coalition for Access raised to DPI on June 10? The request for media worktable(s) at Security Council stakeout also remaining outstanding.”

  The chief of MALU wrote back that “We have put you on the list of people who have requested a ticket. I am waiting to hear from the organizers how many tickets there will be for the press. There is no mezzanine in the temporary GA for extra seating.”

  But a week late on the eve of Malala Day, as resident correspondents covering the July 11 Security Council meetings on Sudan / South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were told to stand back and not block photographs of Gordon Brown and his entourage, there was still no word on media access to cover Malala Day and her speech.

  Inner City Press, again on behalf of FUNCA, inquired with UN Media Accreditation Thursday afternoon and was told they still didn't know how many tickets there would be.

  Despite further explanation by FUNCA of how bad the UN will look if it continues to totally exclude the public from the new General Assembly hall in the North Lawn building, and excludes the press from all but a handful of translation-less photo booths during the General Debate in September, both positions were reiterated.

At the UN's noon briefing on July 10, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: This has to do with GA access to the General Assembly. There are increasingly plenary meetings there, I have gone there a number of times, and there are in the interim North Lawn General Assembly Hall, no seats for the press or for the public. So the only way to cover it is to be a photographer and be in a booth, but then also you have no translation. I understand it’s a smaller space than the old General Assembly Hall, but I am wondering, is that the plan for September that no member of the public will be able to attend the meetings? And even in terms of the press, if you go to the photo booth, how can it be done without any translation at all? I am just wondering if this is gonna be fixed before September, what the status is.

Spokesperson: Well, I think that you have had a fairly detailed response from the Department of Public Information on this topic already. I am happy to revisit that with them to see if they have anything further to say. But I think the key word in everything that you said just then is “interim”. I think everybody understands that this is a temporary arrangement while the true General Assembly building is renovated, and there may be some inconveniences for the time being, and people may need to adjust to that for the time being, for an interim period. And we’ll certainly do our level best to help all media who wish to cover the deliberations in the General Assembly, not just during the general debate, which of course will be a particularly busy period, but throughout the period when it is in that temporary location.

  We will return to that ongoing issue, and to recent UN reductions in access and even threats to accreditation. But as to Malala Day, after the second inquiry on the afternoon of July 11, there was still no word that evening, nor on the morning of the speech / Day, less than two hours before it's all set to begin.

  Like the exclusion of the press and public from the new General Assembly Hall, and the continuing defense of that despite detailed critique and constructive suggestions from FUNCA, the Free UN Coalition for Access, what does this say about the UN? Watch this site.


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