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UN's Lack of Reform Extends Down to Ban's Schedule, Banning of Press, DPI's Lack of Rules

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 13 -- The UN apparently cannot reform itself, in matters either large or small.

   For three large issues, consider only the UN's claim of impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti, inaction as 40,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka, and inaction on 126 rapes in Minova by its continuing partners in the Congolese Army.

  But consider too a small issue, one that the UN on January 17 told the new Free UN Coalition for Access it would reform, but hasn't.

  FUNCA was launched in late 2012, once it became clear that the old UN Correspondents Association not only was not pushing for more access for journalists (other than the few big media which control it) but was actively seeking to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN. That continues.

   After some advocacy, FUNCA was invited to meet top officials of the Department of Public Information on January 17.

   FUNCA, represented at the meeting by a major non-Western wire service, a long time photographer and Inner City Press, laid down markers for further reforms like due process rules for journalists, but came out of the meeting with some already committed.

   It was said for example that the events in New York City beyond the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would henceforth be listed in the UN Media Alert, and that photo opportunities would be open for all.

   But Ban's New York City events are not appearing in the Media Alert. On March 12, as simply the most recent example, Ban appeared at the Princeton Club on 43rd Street for the launch of a book by Tom Plate, “Conversations with Ban Ki-moon.”

   The event was not listed in the Media Alert, nor in Ban's schedule. An attempt was made, after Inner City Press' RSVP had been accepted, to nevertheless ban it. (After complaint, this was reversed; see Inner City Press' March 12 piece on the event, here.)

  Since the January 17 “commitment,” what has been done to make Ban's NYC events more accessible? Nothing, it appears.

  Rather, the focus of DPI's Stephane Dujarric, to whom despite his role in accepting the June 20, 2012 Voice of America / UNCA request to review the accreditation of Inner City Press and thanking VOA for it has been left in charge of reform, seems to be to work around and undermine FUNCA.

   On February 27, after FUNCA was invited to a February 22 meeting by DPI at which UNCA president Pamela Falk of CBS screamed that Inner City Press is “like a mugger” and shouted, “you call yourself a journalist,” Dujarric sent a letter not to admonish not Falk but Inner City Press, for reporting on the meeting.

Inner City Press and another FUNCA member immediately reminded Dujarric that Inner City Press had said loudly, “you are on the record,” and Falk said, “He's going to write this up.” But Dujarric has not explained or retracted his false complaint.

   Rather, another false complaint has been filed, by UNCA Executive Committee member Tim Witcher of AFP and the Reuters correspondent, about a March 8 entirely verbal disagreement significantly less heated that was UNCA's Falk screamed on February 22.

  Inner City Press has asked for a copy of the complaint, and for the applicable due process rules, which the NYCLU asked Dujarric for on July 5, 2012. Neither has been provided.

  (In fairness, one requested reform that has been semi implemented is a new non-UNCA bulletin board, on which FUNCA for now has four flyers. Perhaps the AFP / Reuters complaint can be posted there?)

  With Dujarric now relying on complaint(s) to justify not addressing the reforms requested, and in cases even committed to, FUNCA, when issues about photographs being blocked and deleted were raised, he called the photograph who co-founded FUNCA and asked him to not publicize his complaints.

   But the only action taken has been to talk to the UN's cafeteria and “tent” contractor Aramark, not to announce anything to the wider private security pool, much less to address the forced deletion of photographs that has been raised.

   The UN cannot or will not reform itself. But we will continue to Press. Watch this site.

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