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UN Rules Ban Opposition Media, UNCA Collaborates, Copies FUNCA on Access

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 26 -- While the UN claims to be for freedom of the press, it has required journalists seeking accreditation to show that they have the support of their governments.

   Under this system, opposition media is banned.

   Beyond requiring and processing letters of support from governments for reporters' accreditation, the UN's Media Access Guidelines say that applicants must be affiliated with a media "formally registered" in a state recognized by the UN.

   In tortured language complete with brackets, the UN's Accreditation Requirements state that "The Department of Public Information (DPI) must be satisfied that the individuals applying for accreditation are bona fide media professionals and represent bona fide media organizations [formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly]."

   Truly opposition media does not get licensed; under the First Amendment in the US no license is required.

   So why is this in the UN's rules, in which the decaying UN Correspondents Association is a formal party?

   It allows the UN to unilaterally bar some journalists. Why require that it be a " country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly"?

   Until November 29, 2012, did this include Palestine? Does it not include the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?

    Is is the bracketed clause only invoked to the benefit of Permanent Five members of the Security Council, which maintain seats on the UNCA Executive Committee for their state media like Voice of America, Xinhua and Agence France Presse (41% funded by the French government)? In those cases, UNCA has not fought at all.

   In fact in 2012 UNCA "met with UN officials (very quietly)" to try to get Inner City Press dis-accredited. The official UNCA move to dis-accredit Inner City Press was made by US state media Voice of America. When that failed, the VOA bureau chief dropped off the UNCA Executive Committee, to be replaced by another State Department subsidiary of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

   Consider Reuters, Agence France Presse and the BBC, whose representatives voted every time in 2012 to expel Inner City Press. (Reuters and AFP went further, supporting Voice of America's bid to get Inner City Press dis-accredited from the UN as a whole.)

  On January 25, 2013 the BBC, Reuters and AFP at the UN allowed a UN official to remain unnamed while declaring war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Click here for that story and links.

   Anonymity should be reserved for whistleblowers. But here the BCC, Reuters and AFP follow in the footsteps of Judith Miller of the New York Times, allowing a powerful person anonymity. Isn't the UN owned and supposedly controlled by its member states?

   Why does the UN allow a decaying and now challenged organization, UNCA, to be a formal party to its Media Access Guidelines? These guidelines are limited to where reporters can go - nothing about the UN's refusal to answer questions or make basic financial information publicly available.

   Click here to see for example new UNCA President Pamela Falk's January 24 letter to UN DPI, which by its terms said it was being made public. (Where, was not clear.)

  Note that the lack of TV booths was acquiesced to by the UNCA committee "negotiating" with the UN Capital Master Plan, and the issue of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon closing his speech to the GA was first raised, to Ban himself, by the Free UN Coalition for Access, after Inner City Press alone tried to enter the meeting. None of UNCA's Executive Committee members was there. So for whom is UNCA pretending to complain? UNCA has become a copycat.

   Perhaps this lack of advocacy and imagination by UNCA is why some in the UN like it so much. But the new Free UN Coalition for Access hears and sees things different. Watch this site.

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