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At UN, Stress Test of A/V Snafus, Complaints by FUNCA Ignored by DPI

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- The UN spend millions of dollars on a new audio - visual conference system but for weeks there have been complaints about delays, malfunctions, and lack of accountability. There has been a lack of responsiveness, too.

  Some of the UN official most responsible for the snafus in the new system chose the time of shift-over as they time to go on vacation; even when back, they refused to respond to complaints.

  For example, the new Free UN Coalition for Access after fielding complaints both from inside UN headquarters and from those seeking to access the UN from outside, raised the issues to UN Webcast, UN TV, UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit and their supervisor, Stephane Dujarric -- all without recent response.

   The complaints passed on by @FUNCA_info have ranged from delays in putting online archived video of briefings through the so-called MAMS system, to blockages and unnecessarily deteriorated working conditions for journalists at the Security Council stakeout;

to blackouts on UN EVTV, for example of BBC, and low sound volume and quality over the live webcast, raised by @FUNCA_Questions.

  @FUNCA_info has also raised, without explanation, favoritism and lack of transparency in the issues of access tickets (for example to Malala Day), to DPI's summaries of meetings being politicized (and even intentionally different in different languages), which was complained of by India in the last Committee on Information meeting, but happened again on Latin American ministers meeting with Ban Ki-moon about NSA spying and Edward Snowden , without explanation once raised.

  FUNCA also provides praise where appropriate, like here. Ironically, countries' mission to the UN answer FUNCA's access questions, while those in the UN charged with these issues try not to. That's this UN.

  UN staff sources describe to Inner City Press and FUNCA a "Town Hall" meeting in mid July in which the Department of Public Information, which controls the above-named units, said that the Department of Management led by Yukio Takasu promised it would all be workin "by the General Assembly," meaning the General Debate week in late September.

  But DPI has not even taken action on simple problems raised to it early in the summer. On June 10, FUNCA and Inner City Press e-mailed Dujarric and others in DPI a description of the photo booths above the floor of the new / interim General Assembly Hall, with tables, a broken chair, and no interpretation of the speeches taking place on the floor.

  A commitment was made to act on it. But nothing has been done since, even as it was raised again in connection with example with a GA session on Syria, or a staged Youth Day event at which Dujarric was present, taking and tweeting photographs of Ban Ki-moon.

  It is noteworthy that at least some in DPI are loud proponents of social media, but refuse to respond to back issues raised to them in such media. Meanwhile their units like UN Webcast tweet welcomes to the new US Ambassador, which they don't do for any other country. Perhaps they think that will give them the immunity the UN claims in Haiti.

  Meanwhile by enforcing an anachronistic monopoly for the old UN Correspondents Association they cut off other means of communication, and have even threatened Inner City Press' accreditation with suspension or withdrawal for merely hanging a sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access on the door of its shared office, while UNCA now has five signs. It is pathetic.

  On Friday, August 9, Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq read out a short announcement:

On Monday, 12 August, the Department of Public Information and other offices at UN Headquarters will be performing a large-scale testing of the new audio-visual conferencing system. During this test, we will be simulating meetings throughout the system to check the performance and work flows during peak demand periods for the forthcoming General Assembly. This exercise will include the simultaneous testing of every conference room and every studio in the facility. Some of this activity may be seen on the IPTV/EZTV system, and you may experience some disruptions during the time of the test.

  Later on Friday, a range of UN staff contacted Inner City Press, and some explicitly FUNCA, with information about this so-called "stress test." One said, "It's a total fiasco, Patrick Morrrison got his D-1 and he's leaving, money is being wasted everywhere and no one, least of all DPI, is taking responsibility."

   Several urged the Free UN Coalition for Access to keep pushing the issue. And so we will, seeking as from FUNCA's founding to make the UN more accessible, without favoritism or intimidation. Watch this site.


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