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Press & Public Excluded from GA in September, UN Won't Say Who Decided

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 12 -- During the UN General Assembly's debate week this September there will not be a single seat for the press or public, it was confirmed Monday at the UN. Who has made this decision is not clear.

  The interim General Assembly Hall will have 1000 seats, a UN Security official estimated, compared to 1,800 in the old Hall now under repair. Countries' delegations are being given an addition 560 seats in an adjacent overflow room.

  But for the press and public, which used to be able to witness the proceedings from the fourth floor mezzanine, nothing. Not a single seat. (Also, a media stakeout by North Lawn Conference Room 1, available and used last year, is slated for elimination.)

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access has protested this to the UN Department of Public Information since at least June 10. Commitments made at that time by DPI official Stephane Dujarric, about the working conditions in the six small booth through which camera-persons could watch from above the GA floor, have yet to be acted on.

  Yet DPI is acknowledging that this exclusionary GA Week is coming, holding a pre-GA briefing on August 12. There, when Inner City Press asked a DPI staffer who was responsible for the decision of no seats for the press or public, the answer was the "probably" the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management -- a Department that has not held a press conference in years.

   To be sure who is responsible, the Free UN Coalition for Access asked the UN Spokesperson, through @FUNCA_info. Then the same question was put to Dujarric, through @InnerCityPress since Dujarric is behind a move to ban FUNCA and its questions, even threatening to suspend or withdraw Inner City Press' accreditation for hanging a FUNCA sign on the door of its shared office while UNCA, which leaked internal anti-Press documents to Dujarric, has no fewer then five signs, and a big UN room in which it holds politicized events publicized only to those who pay it money as dues.

  (UNCA's 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS was not present for Monday's pre-GA briefing. Nor was her first vice president, Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, who leaked the internal UNCA documents to Dujarric immediately after promising not to. Story here, audio here, document here.)

After a detailed briefing about how live broadcasts shots can be obtained, this year on the lawn in front of the UN rather than the old Press Island, Inner City Press for FUNCA asked how the day's "Stress Test" of the UN's audio - visual broadcasting system had gone. Click here for Inner City Press' curtain raiser on the test.

While the results are not yet in, Inner City Press confirmed on Monday that in a Town Hall meeting on July 15, DPI's chief acknowledged to DPI staff the problems with the new "MAMS" system, blaming them on firewalls and saying that it was being dealt with through Department of Management chief Yukio Takasu. So who is responsible? Watch this site.

Footnote: DPI's chief at the July 15 town hall meeting made much of new technology, social media, responsiveness. So it is striking that Dujarric and DPI have actually become less responsive to press access issues politely but publicly raised through social media. This UN is closing in on itself; FUNCA will continue to oppose that.


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