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Press Unprotected at UN, As Salma Hayek Guard Bans Photos, Beyonce's Deletes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- When photographers at the UN are ordered to delete photographs they have taken, and others are told they can't take pictures in public areas, what has the UN become?

  On Thursday Inner City Press witnessed a bodyguard for Salma Hayek order a long time photographer at the UN, co-founder of the Free UN Coalition for Access, not to take any photographs. (Hayek was at the UN for a corporate event sponsored by Avon -- to which a major wire service photojournalist was told, you cannot come, you are not on the list.)

   The time and place for photographs are the UN is supposed to be governed by rules by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). But as Inner City Press has reported and shown, the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous on December 18 had his spokesman grab a UNTV microphone to keep it away from Inner City Press, on questions about rapes in Minova by his partners in the Congolese Army.

   When Greece's foreign minister took questions at the Security Council stakeout in February, his entourage ordered UNTV to stop recording, and even ordered a UN accredited journalist not to take photographs at the stakeout.

   Inner City Press and FUNCA raised this to DPI at a meeting on February 22. So far, the only written follow up to the meeting from DPI has been a letter from Media Accreditation boss Stephane Dujarric, claiming that “it was clearly understood by all sides that there would be no reporting or recording of the meeting.”

   This is false -- Inner City Press said loudly, “you are on the record” (audio here); another attendee of the meeting has informed Dujarric that it was clear the meeting was being taped. But no response from Dujarric.

   Now we have learned that when Beyonce came to the UN, during a session a range of people including UN Photo took photographs. Then they were ordered by Beyonce's private security to erase the pictures from their memory cards. One of them asked, “What is this, North Korea?”

  What has become of the UN? FUNCA is told that each issue -- at least, those of Ladsous' spokesman and, at least we were told, of the Greek Mission, are being dealt with one on one, behind the scenes. Even if this is true, it it is working, it does not inform others not to do the same thing.

  Dujarric prior to his February 27 false letter claimed that his door is always open, come to raise problems and propose reforms anytime. Then his letter used the false allegation to say “we question your ability to work together on solving substantive questions.”

  So much for an open door.

   FUNCA told the UN from its launch on December 7, 2012, that it is on the record, pressing for more public access. It proposes reforms, in public. On this, FUNCA proposes that those visiting the UN, particularly including personal bodyguards, entourages and security, be clearly told what the rules and rights of journalists are.

   As noted, the UN rules must be revised, and the UN Correspondents Association, whose President Pamela Falk of CBS and first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters Dujarric sought to protect with his February 27 false letter, must be removed as a party to the rules, since they have not fought for journalists' rights like this.

  To the contrary, as proved by documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, UNCA “leaders” have asked Dujarric to throw out of the UN the investigative Press.

   Dujarric replied “thanks,” and still has not said when he would have told Inner City Press about the complaint. Now he has filed his own false complaint, with himself, and has refused to retract or explain it. Watch this site.

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