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As UN Bans Press From Back of GA, Ignores Past as on SC, Rules June 11?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 10 -- As the UN reduces media access it is not even honest about it. There is the pending, at least until tomorrow, matter of eliminating the media worktable that existed in front of the Security Council before and during the relocation for the $2 billion Capital Master Plan renovation.

   And now there is the elimination of seats from the press and public in back or upper deck of the General Assembly Hall.

   For the new relocation of the General Assembly to the UN's North Lawn building, now the only way journalists can cover it is in a few photo booths: there are no other press seats.

  But in an e-mail Monday evening to Inner City Press, which protested on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, the UN claims that this is "exactly the same manner as in the permanent facility."

  That is false, as it ignores the press seats in the back upper desk of the "permanent facility," just as the UN's response on the Security Council was false, ignoring that a media table was in use well before the relocation.

  With these, to be diplomatic, factual disagreements, how can the UN Department of Public Information now be prepared to finalize a disputed set of Media Access Guidelines on June 11?

  But that is what DPI, in its e-mail response to Inner City Press and FUNCA after close of business on June 10 said it is going to do.

   After being turned away from even the back of the room of the temporary General Assembly Hall on June 10, Inner City Press wrote to the three highest DPI officials in part that:

On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, the trigger for this communication is the lack of facilities for the media to cover the 'new' General Assembly in the North Lawn building. We hope this is useful. This afternoon I came to cover the (open) General Assembly meeting on HIV/AIDS, UNCTAD, Fifth Committee and other matters. I was not allowed to enter the combined former ECOSOC and Conference Room; a Security Officer told me to 'call DPI.' It was explained to me that the ONLY way for the media to cover the new GA is from a small number of booths above the GA floor.

Clearly, this lack of media space will not suffice for future GA meetings, particularly but not only during General Debate week. On behalf of FUNCA, this is a request that media access be expanded to include back of the GA hall, more booths, more access.

I also note that in the media booths, at least on the former ECOSOC / East River side, there were no tables in in the two booths, and only one chair in each. Even to upload photographs via laptops, tables should be there.

This is even more true with regard to the Security Council stakeout. FUNCA is opposed to the currently pending draft media access guidelines, and urges that it not be finalized until this issue is resolved.

We wish to emphasize again: for particular parts of the UN press corps (that we have explained) and also specifically for new media coverage of the UNSC, which involves speaking with diplomats about a range of issues and producing a number of shorter pieces while still taking in new information, workspace -- at least a table or surface to type on -- at the UNSC is imperative. It harms no one, and it should not be allowed to be blocked.

Without for now getting back into the propriety of the UN automatically giving the first question to UNCA, which does not represent all correspondents and which, significantly on this question, charges dues (leading to a situation in which, for the payment of money, one class of correspondents is formally given precedent over other, non money paying correspondents), FUNCA wishes to state in advance that the installation of an "UNCA" sign on any seat would be inappropriate, particularly in light of the pending rule purporting to ban the posting of the name of alternative organizations even on journalist's doors. (That is unacceptable).

  After 6 pm, UN DPI official Stephane Dujarric -- we've been asked not to personalize, and so here have not -- wrote back that:

From: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Subject: Re: FUNCA inquiry on UNGA media access, options for media workspace at UNSC, thanks
To: FUNCA [at]; Cc's
Date: Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Dear Matthew, Thanks for your email. Because of the renovation of the GA hall, the meetings of the General Assembly have been temporarily moved to a large conference room in the North Lawn Building.

Journalists wanting to cover meetings of the General Assembly in the temporary hall will do so in exactly the same manner as in the permanent facility. That means that you can either watch the meetings from a booth if you are taking pictures or video taping it, or you can follow the meeting on the webcast from your office or your laptop. Journalists were not allowed on the floor of the General Assembly hall in the permanent facility during official meetings and that will be the case in the North Lawn Building temporary GA Hall.

As to the size of the booths and the number of booths in the temporary GA Hall, while we can not increase the size nor the number we will look into the issue of furniture.

On the guidelines, we plan to issue them tomorrow. As you will see, some of your suggestions have informed the final content of the document.

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

  Again, we've been asked not to personalize, and so here have not. But will the rules alluded to try to ban the signs of one organization but not another? Watch this site.

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