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Banning Press, UN Confidentiality Alliance Tells FUNCA Where To Work

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- For Wednesday's Syria meeting of the UN Security Council, there was the most reduced press access to the Council in years. Already the media work table that existed at the stakeout before and during the renovation relocation was removed.

  This week, the UN Department of "Public" Information unilaterally changed the rules further, telling the Press it could no longer stand in a six foot wide space south of the entrance steps and north of the new Turkish Lounge.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access immediately sought an explanation, via @FUNCA_info to DPI's Stephane Dujarric then, having no response, at the August 21 UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: now that there is going be this emergency Security Council meeting, I wanted to ask you, and maybe we can figure this out before 3 p.m. Until this week, the media has been able to use both sides of the stairs, just not in the Turkish lounge, and then we can stand there and ask people coming up and down the stairs from both sides questions about Syria or whatever it is. Suddenly, yesterday, it was said that the area between the stairs and the Turkish lounge can no longer be used by the media. I dont know if that was just a sort of an ad hoc decision, Id asked as a question of media access, I have tried to ask DPI [the Department of Public Information], I have yet to get an answer, can we find out before 3 p.m. why there would have been a change to reduce press access to the stakeout as we have had it?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Well try. [Video]

But between noon and 3 pm there was no answer. So FUNCA asked Dujarric again, and this time he replied, thusly

"@FUNCA_info Matthew: u asked to the q to a MALU staff and they answered. U may not have liked the answer but that's the answer. thx"

Beyond dismissive, since no explanation of the unilateral reduction has been given, it is also confusing: Wednesday afternoon another MALU staffer told Inner City Press, you can stand in that space for some period of time and look in, but you can't stay there. So, how long?

  The Free UN Coalition for Access, copying at his request the bureau chief of a wire service, member of FUNCA, wrote to the Under Secretary General of DPI, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal:

This is a request for a written statement and explanation of where correspondents can work (stand and ask questions) from at the UNSC stakeout.

In a change of policy, I was told this week that correspondents now CANNOT be in the space south of the steps, before the Turkish Lounge. Photo here:

I asked Stephane Dujarric about this, and got no answer. I asked at today's noon briefing -- that is, for an on the record answer. But there's been none. Another MALU staff this afternoon told me one can stand there momentarily and look, but not remain.

For how long?

Now Stephane has belatedly responded that the MALU answer is the answer. WHICH Malu answer? Earlier this week, or today? When was this policy changed? To whom was it explained?

Please explain, during this emergency session on Syria. And please confirm receipt. Thank you.

But even five hours later, no response. Rather, as Inner City Press stood in the space bothering no one, DPI got UN Security to tell Inner City Press to unplug its computer and leave the space.

A former UN Correspondents Association president cut in and agreed, saying that space is for "off the record" communications, and talked about FUNCA.

  (Neither UNCA's 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS, though faux Tweeting, nor her first vice president Lou Charbonneau of Reuters, who's spied for Dujarric and the UN, were anywhere to be seen at the stakeout on Wednesday, as media access was being reduced.  But both still bear command and direct responsibility, including for other UNCA Executive Board anonymous social media trolling.)

First, to be clear, it's not for DPI much less UNCA to tell journalists where to have on the record communications.

  Second, it must be noted that DPI and UNCA, now its UN Confidentiality Alliance, in May 2013 proposed rules including that "On-the-record interviews should be conducted in front of the stakeout microphone. Correspondents must remain behind the steel fence."

FUNCA immediately submitted opposition and revisions, on this explaining that

"previously the Security Council stakeout had a table / workspace. The interim Security Council as well. We do not accept going backwards, or those who would agree to this. It is shocking that the drafters / negotiators of these rules, apparently including the UNCA Executive Committee (see below) would purport to dictate even what correspondents can post on the doors of their offices. Particularly since the UN, despite the recent history, has decided to gave UNCA a big office "clubhouse," it is distasteful to try to restrict the speech of others on fliers on their doors. Again, pardon the tone: FUNCA does not accept this.

"In fact, UNCA should not be a listed party to the UN's Media Access Guidelines. As you know, not all accredited correspondents are members of UNCA; far from it. Particular given the references / threats to suspension or withdrawal of accreditation for violation of the Guidelines, UNCA should not be a party. The attempt to limit access to the Delegates' Lounge to resident correspondents is not acceptable. It is not for these rules to dictate where on the record interviews take place - it is for the journalist and the subject (hence the deletion)."

  And while many anti free press UNCA proposals remained in the final rule, this totally indefensible one about where on the record interviews may be conducted was removed. That the former UNCA president repeated the argument is telling. And there is more to be told: watch this site.


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