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Press Unprotected at UN, Some in DPI Whisper to Wrong Party, Ignore Beyonce's Deletes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 -- 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 does the UN do?

  It whispers only to its cafeteria contractor Aramark, while ignoring private security and worse, the forced deletion of photographs.

  On March 7 Inner City Press witnessed and exclusively reported that a bodyguard for Salma Hayek ordered a long time photographer at the UN, co-founder of the Free UN Coalition for Access, not to take any photographs.

  Inner City Press also learned and reported 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?”

  The time and place for photographs are the UN is supposed to be governed by rules by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).  Since its founding on December 7, 2012, this is the type of issue that FUNCA advocates on, to improve access at the UN, and the UN itself, if possible.

  But in a February 27 letter he has yet to explain, DPI's Stephane Dujarric said because of Inner City Press' reporting on an on-the-record meeting involving the UN Correspondents Association, "we question your ability to work together on solving substantive questions."

  Dujarric's complaint was 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.

   So FUNCA did not and will not raise the issue to Dujarric, at least until his false February 27 letter is explained and acted on.

  Dujarric, however, upon reading the Inner City Press story repeatedly telephoned the photographer, indicating that the photographer should come directly to him with problems, not through FUNCA, and not publicize the press access issues.

  Remember, this is called the Department of PUBLIC Information.

   FUNCA then sent the issue to the head of DPI, adding to the pending 10 reforms it submitted on February 10, stating

"FUNCA's request is that this be addressed formally, and publicly. Private security who come into the UN should be told what the rules are, what journalists' and photographers' rights are.

Dealing with these issues privately, as with the communication to USG Ladsous' spokesman, or (if it has happened) to the Greek mission is not what FUNCA is requesting. Also, in light of the February 27 letter I complained about to DPI including to you, this is to reiterate that FUNCA is an organization raising these issues, which should be addressed publicly as issues raised by an organization."

  The response came from, guess who, Dujarric. He stated:

"after you reading your post, I spoke Luiz over the weekend (or Friday) to find out more details about the incident. He gave me the details. I will be writing to Aramark to ensure that they remind any outside organizers of events at the UN that the public area of the grounds are exactly that -- a public area -- and that guests need to respect our rules to allow UN accredited press to do its job."

  But that is not enough. It does not address the order to delete photographs. In any event, Aramark is the UN's cafeteria contractor. It does not appear to be the way to reach the private security who come into the UN.

 Simultaneous with this too-limited and buck-passing response, UNCA "leader" Tim Witcher of Agence France Presse and Reuters' correspondent filed a frivolous and pre-textual complaint against Inner City Press with UN Security.

  The complaint - a copy of which has yet to be shown to Inner City Press, but which has been requested - appears to be based on an entirely verbal disagreement on March 8.

  After more mis-direction by UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, Inner City Press critiqued the pass-through coverage. Witcher hissed about "lies and distortions" and Inner City Press said "lapdog."

  Ironically, things shouted at Inner City Press by UNCA president Pamela Falk in front of Dujarric at the February 22 meeting he then chided Inner City Press for reporting on were significantly more insulting.

  But Inner City Press filed no complaint, and Dujarric and DPI did not admonish Falk in any way. So are there two standards? More to the point, what are the rules? Are there rules about frivolous and pre-textual complaints? Watch this site.  

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Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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