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Amid UNTV Cut Offs, Favoritism Alleged & Raised by FUNCA, Half Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 8, updated twice -- At all levels of the UN there's a need to increase transparency and responsiveness, to root out favoritism and, yes, to increase assess.

 That is the mission of the Free UN Coalition for Access, which 24 hour hours ago put a series of questions to the UN Department of Public Information's Stephane Dujarric, in charge of the News and Media Division and thus, at least he thinks, in charge of the press corps which cover the UN and what they write or even tweet.

  A complaint was received, then follow-ups, concerning among other things a hiring that Dujarric was said to be lobbying for. The individual concerned, Inner City Press has previously had opportunity to name, as responsible for cutting off UN Television while Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari spoke back in June 2012. Click here for that.

  There have been other cuts offs since, for example of the negotiator of the State of Palestine Saeb Erekat, and as luck would have it, a cut off or non broadcast on October 8 of an open meeting in UN Conference Room 7 on a Nuclear Free Middle East.

As to why that happened, when the meeting was nearly over Dujarric replied, "I don't know. You should ask the organizers." In the spirit of transparency, this response was tweeted via @FUNCA_info (Dujarric favorited it); Egypt's Deputy Permanent Representative was asked if his mission asked to not have the open meeting broadcast. No, he answered.

  Now, 24 hours after it was sent, and after Dujarric said he would be replying today October 8 (it is now past 7:30 pm), here are inquiries that were sent to Dujarric by the Free UN Coalition for Access:

The question, like the tweet early this morning said, is a follow-through (and provision of due process) on a complaint received about the "Operations Branch" and a proposed recruitment.

I don't want to take any chance of putting the complainant in danger of retaliation, so I can only summarize with some charges the complaint. But this should allow you to answer it. In this light, FUNCA has been asking since January for due process to be afforded to all journalists at the UN: they should be informed or and asked about complaints made against them and given an opportunity to respond. FUNCA is still waiting to see the promised changes beyond the dubious Media Access Guidelines issued with UNCA.

Summary of the complaint (which, because it asserts the lobbying of Peter for this, is being cc-ed to Peter)

1) DPI's News and Media Division Director Stephane Dujarric is rushing Peter Launsky Tieffenthal the new USG of the Department of Public Information to make an exception for the appointment of [   ] the former Chief of Radio as Chief of the News and Media Division's newly created Operations Branch.

QUESTION 1: Is she proposed for this position? Would any "exception" be requested or required? Has Peter been consulted about this?

2) Though she does not meet any of the basic qualifications and requirements for the job, it seems that [Peter] is being pressured to seriously consider Dujarric's request for the promotion at the D1 Level of one of Dujarric's close advisers who does not meet the basic requirements for this high level post.

QUESTION 2: What are the requirements for this post? Is "pressure" being applied? What have been the steps in the outreach and recruitment, consideration and interviewing?

3) It is asserted (in response to other follow-up questions) that the position requires many years of experience in human resources, personnel, administration and budget which she does not have. That's why Dujarric has requested [Peter] to make an exception and overrule a negative decision probably made within OHRM. AN exception can be only granted by USGs as they make decisions on behalf of the Secretary General.

QUESTIONS 3-5: Was there a negative decision? If so, was it from OHRM? Is Peter being asked to "make an exception" to it?

4) More generally, and you can respond to this as you will, the complainant characterized her as, well, not competent, but favored because she has helped "cover up" mismanagement ranging from "waste of DPI money to manipulating posts and limiting promotions to a preferred and restricted group of people who are very loyal to 'Dujarric's gang.'"

Like I said, respond to this last as you will -- it is provided (as DPI did NOT do, including on a document DPI / Dujarric should never have been given, explicitly marked internal to UNCA) in the spirit of due process.

Given the UN's stated move into social media, you or someone in DPI should be available via Twitter (I've raised this to MALU as well, Twitter would be a good way for MALU and the wider DPI to be informed of problems, needs or opportunities for improvement, and anything else) -- notably, you responded to another complaint about a broken link to INSTRAW, but nothing (yet) on being informed that UN TV / Webcast got the name wrong of one of two presenters at recent migration press briefing.

While there is more to say on other topics, just speaking of press briefing and press access to the Security Council, FUNCA maintains that DPI allowing France to "reserve" so many seats in the briefing room for the Hollande briefing was improper, as was the fact that France was allowed, by itself and without even in the involvement of Security Council member and host Rwanda, to decide which media could go on the UN plane and cover the Great Lakes trip.

Since the UN sent out the invite -- it first went through UNCA, which we protest -- and the UN sent a staffer who served ONLY those three media which went on the plane, this is a protest, by FUNCA.

On the Security Council stakeout, there is more to be said, but FUNCA notes that during the General Debate you put in tables there for the White House press corps. This shows that tables CAN go there, and while it would probably NOT be as many as you put and photographed, it should be some, we maintain, to enable optimal coverage of the UNSC.

FUNCA is trying to help; FUNCA aims for a more accessible and transparent UN, including one where journalists have due process rights and there is no specter of censorship, lack of free speech or association, or (now on this complaint) of retaliation.

Expectantly, and in the spirit of an improving and more accessible UN,

The Free UN Coalition for Access.

  First, Dujarric said "I'm just now looking at my Twitter account and see a question from you. What exactly do you want to know? If you need urgent attention, always best to call or email. There days when I'm on Twitter a lot and other days almost not at all."

  This seems strange, for a person so associated with the UN and social media. And after Dujarric's accreditation unit since June has threatened to suspend or withdraw Inner City Press' accreditation for merely hanging a sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access on the door of its shared office -- while Dujarric's favored (and politicized) UNCA has five signs -- FUNCA even more than before favors public domain, open source communications with UN Media Accreditation and DPI.

  Then, after receiving the above, Dujarric at 10 am Tuesday morning said, "Questions received. I hope to have something back to you by the end of the day." Then at 2:30 pm, "I don't know. You should ask the organizers." Then nothing, as the work day ended. Nothing.

  We will be happy to run whatever responses are received, again in the spirit of due process, and improving the UN. Watch this site.

Update - after another e-mail request sent to Dujarric and those above him, still no response. Although the individual named as cutting off UNTV on Syria's ambassador was named at the time without complaint (or really, response), we are redacting and pronoun-izing above. It's not required, but it's nice to be nice.

Update II -- and after 9 pm, the following was received -- which on the Nuclear Free Middle East event implies that only events for which the organizers REQUESTED coverage by UNTV get it. So -- more newsy -- who requested coverage of the Ban Ki-moon "closed" meeting with the women's group in September where he called the Syria report he hadn't seen "overwhelming"?

  Did Ban request it? These answers never say what the rule is, or what the process is. This is the opacity (and double standards) that FUNCA will continue to oppose, even under Dujarric's censorship-related threat of June 24. Here:

From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Date: Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 9:04 PM
Subject: Re: Re: Questions (those of 24 hours ago and still on Egypt's event on "Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons," no on EZTV? [and, FUNCA is trying to help; FUNCA aims for a more accessible and transparent UN, etc thanks
To: funca [at] funca.info
Cc's

Dear Matthew, In reference to your questions earlier I can tell you that the selection process for the position you mentioned is proceeding in accordance with the recruitment instructions established by the Under-Secretary-General for Management and the case will be reviewed by the Central Review Bodies.

Regarding your query about traveling press with the Security Council I understand you have already been in touch with the Spokesperson's office on this issue and I have nothing to add.

As for my availability on Social Media, I make every effort to answer queries but if you need an immediate answer, it's always best to pick the phone or send an email.

Regarding, the Egypt sponsored meeting on the nuclear free-zone. I am not aware of any request by the organizers to have the meeting webcast or televised.

Lastly, as for your comment about the end of the work day, I would delighted if my work day ended at 8:25p. As you can see from the time of this email, my work day is not yet over!

Stephane Dujarric (Mr.) Director
News & Media Division | Department of Public Information

So who requested coverage of the Ban Ki-moon "closed" meeting with the women's group in September where he called the Syria report he hadn't seen "overwhelming"?

  And in terms of what the Department of Public Information is, the UN website said the "Spokesmanís Office, administered by DPI" (while reporting to the SG) -- for that reason, and because DPI purports to be in charge of, even committed to, fair treatment of journalists, should answer on and ensure the prevention of, one country, in this case colonial, controlling which media get one a "UN" plane. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

 

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