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UN Censorship Alliance Closes Ranks, Bureaucrats & Censors, FUNCA Resists

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 1 -- The full extent to which the current UN may be a faceless bureaucracy that cannot reform itself is on display in the belated answers to questions raised on January 17 by the new Free UN Coalition for Access.

  The also new chief of the UN Department of Public Information, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, had repeatedly asked to meet with FUNCA in response to issues it raised in e-mails to him beginning in December.

  These issues ranged from due process for journalists when a government, official or other media files a complaint against them through the duty of UN officials to take and answer answers to the need for the UN to allow an open democratic space for a group beyond the UN Correspondents Association, a/k/a the UN's Censorship Alliance.

   In 2012, according to documents Inner City Press has obtained from Voice of America under the US Freedom of Information Act, UNCA "met with UN officials (very quietly)" to seek the expulsion of Inner City Press.

   Soon thereafter, VOA which said it had the support of Reuters bureau chief Louis Charbonneau and Agence France Presse's Tim Witcher, filed a complaint with UN official Stephane Dujarric seeking the "review" of Inner City Press' accreditation.

  Dujarric thanked VOA's Steve Redisch and promised to call him later in the week. But Dujarric never informed Inner City Press about the dis-accreditation request.

  It was this that led the New York Civil Liberties Union to publicly ask DPI Under Secretary General Launsky-Tieffenthal to state the UN's content neutral policies for accreditation and for due process on any complaints received.

  Launsky-Tieffenthal never answered this request: the NYCLU has told Inner City Press it received a short (and unsatisfactory) letter from Maher Nasser, the charge d'affaires at the time, and a cursory cell phone call from Dujarric. No due process rules were disclosed. The question remained, and remains, outstanding.

While it was Launsky-Tieffenthal who requested the January 17 meeting with FUNCA, once there on the UN's 10th floor it was Dujarric who answered on most issues.

  Dujarric said, in essence, that FUNCA should disband and "work with UNCA." That is not going to happened, not least because of the dis-accreditation attempts and now refusal to allow any democratic space.

  At the meeting, Dujarric said that the day after FUNCA's complaint about Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous directing his spokesman to seize the UNTV microphone to avoid an Inner City Press question about 126 rapes by the UN's partners in the Congolese Army, he told the spokesman it was wrong.

  But Dujarric never told anyone else, and has refused to put it in writing. This UN cannot reform: it only covers up.

  After the January 17 meeting, it was Dujarric and not Launsky-Tieffenthal who sent some cursory written answers.

  FUNCA reiterated the outstanding issues, also stating with all due respect that Dujarric given his role in the Voice of America and UNCA complaints was and is not the right interlocutor, in UN-ese. There are more connections, left out, in good UN form.

  Dujarric's response was to ask that question that had already been handed over as a page and a half flyer on January 17 asked be sent again, electronically. They were.

   In the meantime, the UN's or at least Dujarric's partners in UNCA began tearing down flyers posted by FUNCA.

  This is thuggish behavior, given that UNCA has its own glassed in bulletin board on which for months in 2012 they posted a five page letter denouncing Inner City Press.

   FUNCA wrote to Launsky-Tieffenthal about the bulletin board problem, twice, and raised it again in person.

   But no response was received; rather first one Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit staffer then other sent a copy of an inapplicable flyer policy that applies to invitations to events by Permanent Missions or UN Departments. The second message noted that correspondents can post flyers on the doors to their cubicles.

  On January 31, after ten days of silence and inaction by DPI, the UNCA "leaders" tore the FUNCA flyers even off Inner City Press' cubicle door.

   Also that week, UNCA's "leaders" created an anonymous fake Twitter account to try to undermine both FUNCA and Inner City Press. Click here for that story; UN DPI is aware of these acts by its partner, its UN Censorship Alliance.

   The UNCA "leaders" made spurious allegations, as they had tried in 2012, of terrorist funding -- even as they and even their Dag program for young journalists are funded by, among others, the Italian oil company ENI. These are the UN's partners.

   On the afternoon of Friday, February 1 some even more bureaucratic and non-responsive answers were sent by Dujarric, along with a request that they be published in full. Read them and weep -- at what the UN has become.

   Where do things stand? FUNCA will continue to push forward. Some continue to say that Launsky-Tieffenthal might think in a new and fresh way, and not simply be captured.

  Rather desperately, the new president of UNCA on January 31 went to a normal noon briefing and made a point of telling the Deputy Spokesperson, the only one on the podium, "on behalf of UNCA, thank you for being here." Video here, at Minute 5:29.

   There was more than a little laughter in the room. Inner City Press for FUNCA thanks the deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey as well, "for all you do," then asked questions. Had it seem Dujarric's non-responsive answers it would have asked more pointedly.

 Here are those "answers," in full, with FUNCA's responses marked and in bold:

Subject: Answers
From: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Date: Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 3:18 PM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Dear Matthew,

Further to our response to you of 23 Jan, I wanted to come back to you on your questions.

On the issue of your suggestion of the withholding of white P passes to long-time correspondents, these accreditation badges are provided to UN Resident Correspondents, as per the Renewal of Accreditation guidelines on the UN media accreditation website.

FUNCA: This totally ignores the point FUNCA has been raising since December 2012 -- that for example a photographer who's covered the UN for twenty years still has a "Green" P pass and has to go through metal detectors -- and can't enter the Delegates' Lounger, according to UNCA -- while any photographer who work for example for AFP gets a white P, since AFP has an office. UNfair.

Regarding the issue of encouraging senior officials to speak to the media, DPI has consistently encouraged UN officials to speak to the media when appropriate and is providing more opportunities for briefings for UN correspondents, including through live briefings from field situations.

FUNCA: This totally ignores both the request that DPI tell Under Secretaries General to hold press conference, and the specific complaint that USG Herve Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions and told his spokesman to seize the UNTV microphone on December 18, 2012. Dujarric claims to have told the DPKO spokesman it was wrong, but he didn't tell UNTV staff and won't put it in writing. UNreal.

With regard to the assignment of office space, DPI continues to review and revise the allocation of rent-free office space to media outlets, in consultation with journalists and the CMP. Our aim is to accommodate as many outlets as possible in the limited office space that is available.

FUNCA: Among the issues raised is unfair treatment of media based on where in the world they are from, and a specific question about State Department affiliates like Voice of America getting three separate offices at the UN. And yet limited space is slated to be given to an "UNCA Club, "UNCA Office" (at least half) and even an "UNCA Pantry."

The Media Guidelines for UN Headquarters in New York are established by DPI. The specific guidelines on media access at UNHQ contained in the Media Guidelines represent an agreement by DPI, the UN Department of Safety and Security, the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, UNCA and the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

FUNCA: What is the basis of having as a party a purportedly private group, UNCA, which doesn't represent all journalists at the UN and has moved to get even its own members thrown out? Now, the UNCA "leaders" have created a fake Twitter account to accuse other corresponents of being funded by terrorists. UNsustainable.

DPI has consulted UNCA on questions related to media access to ensure that the needs of journalists are considered and reflected in these arrangements, which seek to facilitate the work of journalists in covering UN activities to the greatest extent possible. DPI is always open to the views and needs of all in-house correspondents on these issues. DPI has, and will continue, to provide all in-house correspondents with up-to-date information on issues related to media access.

The granting of the first question in press briefings to UNCA, when an UNCA representative is present, is a tradition in recognition of the establishment of UNCA soon after the creation of the United Nations.

FUNCA: Again, UNCA does not represent all journalists at the UN, attacks some, does not ask good or even interesting questions (!), and UNCA "leaders" have created a fake Twitter account to accuse other corresponents of being funded by terrorists. UNacceptable.

With regard to access to open segments of informal meetings of the General Assembly that take place in the North Lawn Building, DPI is discussing arrangements for access with the Office of the President of the General Assembly and will inform all correspondents about the future arrangements. At the same time, open segments of informal meetings of the General Assembly are available on the live UN webcast.

The UN live webcast is available on any platform that supports flash video. Owing to technical issues that we working to resolve, only some of the live meetings are viewable on iOs devices (iPhones, iPads). We are working to expand access to all open UN meetings on all platforms.

FUNCA: Unresponsive - the webcast doesn't work on the ANDROID platform. What ARE the "technical issues"? This was raised by FUNCA in December, more than a month ago.

We have discussed the NYCLU letter a number of times. The NYCLU chose to make its letter addressed to DPI public; it may also wish to make public the response received by DPI. With regard to your request for information about the procedures for the renewal of media accreditation, they are available on the following UN website:

FUNCA: It is UNreal that the UN won't say what its due process rules are - there are no such rules on the website cited. UNresponsive.

You subsequently raised questions about the posting of flyers in the press area of the United Nations. The response provided by MALU and shared with all correspondents states that “No individual or group has permission to individually tape a poster or flyer in UN hallways." I would add The UN Administrative Guidelines for Posting Flyers was also sent for reference. Moreover, any group or individual journalist can share flyers and information with their colleagues by using the mail boxes of resident correspondents, which sits outside of the MALU office.

FUNCA: Totally unresponsive to the unfairness of UNCA having a glassed-in bulletin board on which they have posted denunciations of other journalist -- under the door or mailbox is not the same. And, UNCA "leaders" have even torn flyers off a FUNCA member's office door, contrary to what MALU said were the rights of expression.

As always, the MALU staff and myself remain at your disposal to meet with you and listen to your concerns.

FUNCA: For the reasons stated, not the right interlocutor.

I would appreciate you posting this email in full.


Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
Director, News & Media Division | Department of Public Information
United Nations, IN-518 | New York, NY, 10017

FUNCA: For the reasons stated, not the right interlocutor.

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