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Press Banned from UN Event Promoted by UNCA President, UNreformed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- Many meetings are needlessly closed to the press and public at the UN, but a new and absurd low was hit on June 9.

  Of an event called "UN Summer Academy," the head of the UN Correspondents Association Pamela Falk had been tweeting for weeks, even as both UNCA and she bought and then deleted Twitter followers, once uncovered.

 On June 9 itself, Falk promoted her appearance, citing UNCA. So Inner City Press, after covering Libya and the UN's continuing failure to issue a promised "Bulletin on Accessibility" for persons with disabilities, went to cover the event.

  It was in the Dag Hammarskjold Library auditorium, where notably UNCA screened a Sri Lanka government film denying war crimes, then tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN for its reporting on it, summary here. There have been no reforms of UNCA since.

  On June 9 no sign said "closed;" there was a UN Summer Academy banner in front. Inner City Press went in and, in order not to take any seat that could be sold -- UNCA as noted charges money, then holds faux UN briefings in the room the UN gives them for free, now long sitting empty until an upcoming scam "reopening" -- stood in the back.

  Down on the stage, Pam Falk was citing anger at sovereignty and non-interference. Inner City Press began to record and prepare to report on this event which had been and was being publicized. Audio here.

  Then a man rushed up from near the stage and asked Inner City Press to step outside. He said the session was "a closed meeting" for "a small group of people." Inner City Press made its argument to continue to record and report on the substance of this meeting being held in the UN. He declined to let Inner City Press back in. Audio here, from 0:19.

  What is the purpose?

  How can a supposed group of UN correspondents, or at least its two year figurehead, promote such a meeting which is then closed to the press?

   Needless to say, the new Free UN Coalition for Access, formed after UNCA's board tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN and then remained unreformed, opposes and will have more on this.

Similarly, but ultimately less inexplicably, a group of UN spokespeople which considers such issues as media accreditation met in New York May 20 to 22, and Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked to observe or at least get a summary.

  On May 20, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said no, it is internal, and declined to take a follow up question. 

  Now a summary of the meetings obtained by Inner City Press shows that to this "internal" UN meeting the Gates Foundation, Burson-Marsteller and the New York Times, among others, were invited:

UN Communications Group 13th Annual Session at Principal’s Level – 20-22 May 2014, UNHQ

The annual UNCG 13th Annual Session at Principal’s Level meeting, which was co-hosted by DPI and UNICEF, brought together directors and heads of communication from all UN entities. It allowed for a focused discussion and exchange of best practices in the field of advocacy and communication.

Working sessions were chaired by Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General, and featured interventions by Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General, and Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF.

Presentations were made on the following topics: “Communicating as One” – by USG Launsky-Tieffenthal;

Breaking through the noise” - by Bruce Mau, Massive Change Network; Climate and post-2015 – a discussion moderated by USG Launsky-Tieffenthal; “Voice, reach and engagement” - UNICEF’s global communication strategy, by Paloma Escudero, Director of Communications, UNICEF; “Working with ad agencies to amplify UN messages” – David Ohana, Chief of Brand Building, UNICEF; Twiplomacy - social media in international organizations - by Adam Snyder, Director of Digital and Social Strategy, Burson-Marsteller; Journalism roundtable on the convergence of new and traditional media with panelists: Miriam Elder, Foreign Editor at Buzzfeed; Rebecca Howard, General Manager of Video Production at the New York Times; Jeremy Hillman, Director of External Communications, Gates Foundation, moderated by Deborah Seward, Director of Strategic Communications Division, DPI; “Storytelling, listening & communicating with data" - by Sebastian Majewski, Gates Foundation and Anoush Tatevossian, UN Global Pulse.

Other sessions focused on the high-impact of Partnerships; Social media, the Post-2015 agenda, and the 2015 EXPO Milan. Stephane Dujarric spoke about his work as the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

   So can a meeting be called "internal" when at least two media organizations and outside foundations are invited? On what terms? Here was UNICEF's response to FUNCA's request:

The UN Communications Group meeting is co-hosted by UN DPI and UNICEF. It’s an internal meeting so isn’t open via webcast or otherwise.”

   Isn't open "otherwise"? To whom?

Background: Previous UNCG Annual Principals Meetings have come out with statements like that it is "important for the United Nations family to engage with all forms of new media, but that some, such as blogs, present particular challenges for accreditation."

   Even today, the UN lags behind the OSCE in raising concerns about the detention by Ukraine authorities of journalists like those of Life News, which put on YouTube video of “UN” marked helicopters in Ukraine. Inner City Press asked Dujarric about this on May 20 and was told that no one in the UN system has even raised the issue to Kyiv, unlike the OSCE. Video here.

   Inner City Press wrote to UNICEF to asked to attend or get access to a webcast of the UNCG meeting but was told: “The UN Communications Group meeting is co-hosted by UN DPI and UNICEF. It’s an internal meeting so isn’t open via webcast or otherwise.”

   But if it concerns topics like accreditation, shouldn't it be open or summarized? Watch this site.


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