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On Shrinking Access, DPI Claims Press Might Eavesdrop on Turkish Gazebo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- As furniture was carted back into the UN Security Council, in the hallway outside where previously there was a media worktable a representative of the Department of Public Information tried to justify to Inner City Press the planned banning of media workspace there.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access, ever since it saw the proposed prohibition in the draft UN Media Access Guidelines on May 21, has been asking for a reversal or explanation of the reduction in media access from what existed before the Council's move to the basement, and while it was downstairs.

  And for now, this is the best DPI can come up with: diplomats sitting in the strange gazebo-like alcove of the so-called Turkish Lounge might be concerned about eavesdropping.

This strange argument immediately followed the statement that the press could sit IN the gazebo with a laptop. So which is it?

  (The specter of violating privacy is ironic from DPI, which on March 18 conducted a non-consensual raid on Inner City Press' office while UNCA's president Pam Falk took photographs she has yet to explain -- more to come on this.)

It appears increasingly clear that the proposed elimination of a media worktable in front of the Security Council is supported, is even attributable to, the Gulf and Western big wire services that control the old UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee.

Inner City Press asked DPI for identify of the drafters of the following paragraph:

"f. The Security Council stakeout area, including the Turkish Lounge, is not to be used as a permanent workspace for the media. When the Council is not in session, correspondents should minimize the amount of time in the area, unless interviewing or conversing with a U.N. delegate or official."

We all agreed to it, has been the answer. The parties to the Guidelines are UNCA -- apparently, only the Executive Committee, since there has been not general membership meeting or discussion of agreeing to this reduction in access -- DPI, UN Security and Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson.

But Ban's Office at Friday's noon briefing said it didn't even know when the draft Guidelines would go into effect.

The UN preaches transparency and public participation to governments about the world. But even on this Guidelines, it can't say who proposed what, what the responses to FUNCA's proposed amendments are, or when the Guidelines -- which Guidelines? -- would go into effect. It's a joke, except it's not funny.

It has been explained to the top of DPI that it is with a media worktable that the Security Council has been able to be covered before the temporary move, and during the interim period.

It has been explained, since these top DPI officials like some of the wire services rarely come to the stakeout that a range of reporters use the media worktable at different time, for example to wait to speak with "their" ambassador during Council open debates. There is no way to know the specific time of a speaker, as some run over, and people trade places.

  So journalists have been able, while they wait, to work on laptops at the table, rather than as DPI and the UNCA big wigs now propose, stand up for three or four hours at a time. Why require that? We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

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