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At UN, Censorship Alliance Ignores French-Only Briefing, Ladsous' Camera Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- Press access at the UN has continued to decline under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  During the October 16 UN General Assembly session to elect five new members to the UN Security Council, the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit came into the GA photographers' booth and said that only "wire service" photographers could remain.

  But MALU has not offered any definition of "wire service," in this new media age. The new Free UN Coalition for Access has demanded such a definition, most recently of Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the October 17 UN noon briefing. Video here.

 Dujarric, saying he was quoting a Supreme Court justice on another topic, said, What is a wire service? I know one when I see one.

   This is, as it were, the definition of arbitrary.

  Tellingly, Dujarric's office two hours later promoted a meeting ostensibly to discuss "access problems," by the UN Correspondents Association a/k/a UN's Censorship Alliance.

   Sources in the meeting - explicitly limited to those paying money in dues, and meriting boycott regardless given the group's recently record - say that the issue of the UN's lack of definition of, but use of, the term "wire service" was not even discussed.

   Nor, also tellingly, was the UNGA press conference in the UN's Press Briefing Room of French president Francois Hollande, from which all non-French journalists were ordered to leave. FUNCA resisted, and stayed; the UN Correspondents Association representative present left, and the group has never raised it

 The UN while throwing out media from workspace gives its UN Censorship Alliance a large room, which it then limits to those that pay it money in dues. Here's how it works: a new media at the UN is told, from the pinnacle of the UN's Censorship Alliance, to pay UNCA $90 and UNCA will get the UN to give the media UN office space.

     Today's UN Censorship Alliance is unlikely to get any meaningful media access problem addressed -- members its Executive Committee have, in fact, caused or colluded in many of the decreases in access. They drafted a rule with MALU to eliminate journalist workspace at the Security Council stakeout; they withheld audio tapes and transcripts of a Ban "interview" with them, even from their own members.

   During last month's General Debate, journalists weren't even been able to go to the General Assembly stakeout without an escort from MALU -- an escort that often did not come on time, or come at all.

  There was, as well, substantive censorship. Most recently of October 16, media photographing the UN General Assembly vote for new Security Council members were ordered NOT to photograph the tables of the voters. Inner City Press for FUNCA resisted, and discussed this issue along with the elections (and Cambodia) on Huffington Post Live's "World Brief" on October 17, here.

On September 27 while Inner City Press filmed from within the GA stakeout area, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous came over and blocked -- or Banned -- the filming, demanding to know what it was for. Vine here. Then Ladsous canceled the scheduled public Q&A stakeout on Mali.

  While the new Free UN Coalition for Access challenged this censorship, on September 27 at the stakeout and following up the next week, the old UNCA has done nothing about it. In fact, UNCA big wigs have been happy to take private briefings from Ladsous and others, as access at the UN for less "insider" correspondents has continued to decline.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access targeted these censorship practices in a September 29 flier, online, in the UN including on the "open" bulletin board it got the UN to install (the flier was torn down, one can only imagine by whom, but has gone back up.)

   Now, in a typical UN charade, the very UNCA which oversaw this decrease in access belatedly says it is concerned and conducts UN-promoted meetings that are akin to faux, scripted wrestling matches with fake punches. This is the UNCA that played softball soccer with Ban, promoting and allowing him a photo op.

  Many of these promotions are signed by UNCA figurehead Pamela Falk of CBS, nowhere seen during noon briefing fights about media access. Meanwhile the UN Spokesperson's office is promoting a for-pay event for UNCA, by taping a flier for it on its counter. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has told the UN, again on October 16, that it must address and reverse its blocking of press access, and that if it needs input it must hold a meeting open to all journalists who cover the UN, not just its chosen UNCA -- the UN's Censorship Alliance -- which has become akin to a company-created and supported union.

   Ban's spokesperson's office declined to criticize the September 27 censorship, nor Ladsous' spokesman subsequently asking another media to confirm that it would not air an on the record interview with Ladsous' deputy Edmond Mulet about the UN bringing cholera to Haiti. Video here.

  In fact Ban's Spokesman played a part in, at least defending, a French-only briefing in the UN Press Briefing Room.

On September 23, the entourage of French President Francois Hollande repeatedly but unsuccessfully ordered the UN accredited Press to leave the UN's Press Briefing RoomVideo here.

  On September 25 when the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who peaked out from the VIP / Green Room behind the Press Briefing Room, about the incident, he said sometimes countries try to reserve the Room.

   Asked if other countries had done so during this General Assembly, Dujarric said yes.

   Inner City Press then asked Dujarric which other countries, beyond his native France:

based on your answer at today's noon briefing, please state which countries during this UNGA have used the UN Press Briefing Room for briefing not open to all UN correspondents, other than France at 11 am on September 23. Also, what was your role on September 23 around 11 am in the room behind the Press Briefing Room podium?

 This has been Dujarric's response:

Subject: please state which countries..
From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Date: Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 1:06 PM
To: Inner City Press
Cc: funca <funca [at] funca.info>

I don't have the information on the first point for you. On the second, I'm not sure that I understand it except that I was just looking into the room. I tend to be a curious person.

Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters

   FUNCA is left wondering: ARE there any other countries? The question has been asked again by FUNCA, elsewhere. And it has been on HuffPost Live, here. Watch this site.

Footnote: as noted the old UN Correspondents Association, which is given privileged status and set-aside first questions nearly always used for softballs, has done nothing in recent years to improve or even defend press access. In fact, members of UNCA's Executive Committee have tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, and there have been no reforms since. It's become the UN's Censorship Alliance. They provide Ban Ki-moon with photo ops playing soccer with them. This is today's UN - and FUNCA is fighting to hold the UN to its stated principles.



 

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