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UN Mulls Reducing Press Space and Raising Costs, Reducing Access

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 -- As the scheduled emptying and multi-year fix-up of the UN headquarters building draws closer, top officials in the UN's Department of Management are actively brainstorming on how to make the UN less attractive to the press. Previously, reporters based at the UN had been told they would be relocated to comparable offices in what is now the UN's library, and would then return to similar space where they are now, on the third and fourth floors of the UN.

   But in a July 15 memo, "Principal Officer" Lena Dissin says that "Angela" Kane, the new Under Secretary General for Management, "has asked us to quickly get some benchmarks from other organizations to see what facilities if any they may make available to the press," and on what basis. Inner City Press is informed by multiple sources that consideration is being given not only to less space for journalists, but also charging enough money for it to drive some of the press out.  Reporters at the UN have been shown blueprints of planned new offices, and have been briefed about the comparable "swing" space in the library.

Angela Kane and microphone, press space and press conference not yet shown

   At the UN's noon briefing on July 17, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe

Inner City Press: One more thing, an in-house kind of thing.  We're told there's a move afoot by the Department of Management, both Ms. [Angela] Kane and Lena Dissin, to look at comparable space to see how other institutions provide space for the press.  The press here have been told that things will stay the same after the Capital Master Plan but there's now a letter in which the Department of Management is seeking to see whether other places provide space at all.  Can you ask the Department of Management to state whether there's any change in policy?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  Sure, but as you know, the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), I think, has been in close contact with the Capital Master Plan people on the planning.  So I think you are directly involved as an officer.

Inner City Press: That's why this letter was so surprising.

Deputy Spokesperson:  And you also have a functional role that you can take this up outside this briefing.

Inner City Press: Okay, but since Ms. Kane has been the head of the department for a while, maybe she can give us a briefing..

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  That's a good idea.  I'll ask her.

  Later in the day, the Spokesperson's office told Inner City Press that "the Secretariat is looking at all space issues, and that it is always interesting to see how other organizations handle these issues." What's not said is that the inquiry involves reducing the number of spaces for journalists, and raising costs to drive some out.

  About the Capital Master Plan more generally, at a town hall meeting on July 16, Ms. Kane called this a "historic" moment. Trying to limit press access would certainly lead to stories. CMP head Michael Adlerstein, when asked about contractor Skanska having triggered methane gas by its drilling by the UN's foundation, as exclusively reported by Inner City Press, responded that he knows about all pipes under the UN. But why then did he call the Con Edison utility when the methane smell arose? Questions, questions. As noted, it's time for a briefing by Management honcho Kane. Watch this site. And this --


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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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