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Free Speech, UN Style, Extends to Press Bulletin Boards, Single Standard Urged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 22 – For some weeks, alongside Mali, Syria and Sri Lanka, Sudan, UN corruption and the Congo, Inner City Press has been reporting on a free speech issue inside the UN itself.

  Flyers posted by the Free UN Coalition for Access calling for reforms of UN accreditation rules and Media Access Guidelines have repeatedly been torn down, counterfeited, defaced with slogans like “Looney Club" and worse.

  FUNCA held a number of meetings with officials of the Department of Public Information, mostly to push for its top ten reforms (including for example eliminating the requirement that a journalist must agree with the unspecified “principles of the UN” in order to be admitted to cover it) but also about free speech.

 First on January 24, the UN itself threatened to tear down FUNCA's flyers. Then after advocacy, sometimes more heated than it might have been - those deserving an apology got one, in fine FUNCA fashion -- this tear-down was postponed.

  UNCA "leaders" continued with the campaign, expanding it.

  While the simplest solution would have been to open up the glassed-in bulletin board maintained by the UN Correspondents Association, on which without naming any UNCA officials a letter denouncing Inner City Press was displayed behind glass for five months in 2012, the UN has proposed another solution.

  Late on the afternoon of Friday, February 22 (four weeks after the ostensible postponement of tear-downs) the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) announced:

A board will be installed at MALU square most likely next week. In the meantime, correspondents can start putting information up in the designated area (look for the press board sign across from the mailboxes). The board is for all correspondents who have a valid accreditation and want to share information about their activities or issues related to the media at the United Nations Headquarters.


-Only correspondents with a valid accreditation can put up a flyer.

-All flyers must be related to press events or issues related to the press at the United Nations Headquarters.

-Insulting language, attacks on other correspondents or groups of correspondents or any information that violates UN principles will not be permitted.

-All flyers must include contact information (name, telephone and/or email) of the person who posts it.

-Only one copy of each flyer can be posted on the board.

The Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit will remove any flyers that are not complying with these rules.

  This last should, of course, apply to the glassed-in UNCA bulletin board, on which they displayed a five page letter attacking the investigative Press for five months in 2012. A problem remains with "separate but (un) equal," with the UNCA glassed-in board.

As we reported and asked earlier this afternoon in connection with a UN Alliance of Civilizations press conference that turned into an advertisement for the German car company BMW, who partnered with the UN AoC, sponsoring and promoting their UN press conference on Friday?

  Without mentioning the name of any officials, it was the UN Correspondents Association. To be diplomatic we'll only for now note that there has been more serious controversy about UNCA sponsoring events in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium -- click here for one example -- and more recently, this week, demanding the first question from Bolivia's president Evo Morales, even when he repeatedly said no, he had recognized another (Latina) journalist first.

   There has been no mea culpa about this fiasco, even after the next day's doubling-down. What about this sponsorship of what became, in essence, an attempted advertisement for BMW?

  Without naming the names of officials -- there seems to be some sensitivity about this -- the question is raised, like the question of documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act like this one. And the questions should be answered. Watch this site.

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