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UN Postpones Trashing FUNCA Fliers, Stonewalls on UNCA's Glassed-In Board

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- The UN on Friday suspended (or merely "postponed") its plan announced the day previous to tear down this coming weekend the critical fliers of the Free UN Coalition for Access, which challenge anti-press freedom moves by both the UN and its UN Correspondents Association.

   At Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press on behalf of FUNCA asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesman Farhan Haq to explain why fliers would be torn down, while UNCA maintained a glassed-in bulletin board which it has used to denounce other journalists.

   Haq replied that an answer would be forthcoming but so far, even to a formal request amplified on Friday afternoon, no explanation has arrived.

   UNCA, which in 2012 met with UN officials seeking the dis-accreditation of Inner City Press, since the launching of FUNCA last month has been defacing, counterfeiting and tearing down FUNCA's fliers.

   This has been a continuation into 2013 of censorship bids in 2012 when UNCA Executive Committee members demanded the removal of articles and photographs from, concerning topics ranging from France and the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, to Sri Lanka and conflicts of interest.

   Both have been resisted: no articles were taken down, Inner City Press after fighting back was not dis-accredited, and now the anti free speech plan to purge fliers has been canceled or "postponed."

  Now with UNCA's claimed sole right to post information in the UN press floor, including denunciations of investigative journalism, it is ironic that UNCA President Pamela S. Falk of CBS on January 24 wrote to the UN that it is "creating a monopoly for UNTV that contradicts the spirit of a free press."

  As one FUNCA member remarked, takes one to know one. UNCA tries to have a monopoly, then belatedly argues against press corps losses it acquiesced in and in some cases suggested. (UNCA said it would make its letter "public," but it is not clear what that means.)

  Here is what the UN sent out after FUNCA's protest: "Given that time is needed for journalists to seek permission from BCSS to put up posters / flyers, MALU has postponed its enforcement to remove the posters/flyers from the corridors."

  But after the UN sent this out, a dozen FUNCA fliers were torn down, including right next to the office of UNCA President Pam Falk and UNCA's glassed-in bulletin board. This is the UN Censorship Alliance.

  The torn-down FUNCA fliers detailed UN official Stephane Dujarric's refusal to disclose the UN's policy on due process for reporters.

  Dujarric was asked after he processed a June 20, 2012 request for dis-accreditation by Voice of America, which said it had the support of Reuters and Agence France-Presse and of UNCA, which it said met "with UN officials (very quietly)" to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.

  Even the "BCSS" policy that was cited in the supposedly postponed threat to tear down fliers does not apply to FUNCA's. The BCSS guideline applies only to flyers defines as "a single page leaflet advertising an event or other activity sponsored by the Permanent Mission(s) and/or the United Nations department(s) and held on the United Nations premises -- Secretariat, DCI, DC2 and UNICEF."

  FUNCA is not a UN department or a country's Permanent Mission, and it is not advertising any event -- as for example UNCA for months advertised its $250 a plate December 2012 dinner dance celebrating Arnold Schwarzenegger. Those fliers did not have any BCSS stamp of approval.

  And so FUNCA has written to the head of the UN Department of Public Information:

We appreciate and will act on this afternoon's follow-up announcement, but it does not resolve the issues we have raised. It is to seek an ongoing and sustainable resolution that this letter / "application" is sent to you, with a copy to the two BCSS email addresses listed in the Policy MALU sent out yesterday.

  What is the legal status of the UNCA glassed-in bulletin board at the entrance to the media floor, on which UNCA in 2012 displayed a lengthy letter of denunciation?

Was that letter, and the other material posted there, approved by BCSS? There is no BCSS stamp on it.

Therefore it appears that no BCSS stamp is or should be required. FUNCA is hereby requesting approval and a bulletin board similar to that of UNCA, on which it will post its fliers with tacks.

In the alternative, the glass and key must be removed from the "UNCA" Bulletin Board, and its name changed to UN Journalists Bulletin Board.

We have asked and continue to ask that the so-called "UNCA Club" be renamed the UN Journalists' Club with equal access for all. Equal does not include UNCA keeping the key, just as it it could not for a UN Journalists Bulletin Board.

We are hereby applying for that, or for approval and a bulletin board for FUNCA announcements about the rights of journalists and free speech at the UN, which will be continuing, as before.

Finally, for now, among the unresolved "space" issues FUNCA objects to the planned lack of booth space over the Security Council and other UN organs, and questions why if this was planned long ago many, including impacted broadcasters, did not learn of it until recently.

   Later on Friday Inner City Press for FUNCA asked the UN Capital Master Plan why there are no plans for booths over the Security Council and other UN organs, and when and after what consultations this decision was made?

   Also, we appreciated your previous answer but don't fully understand it. The "lack of adequate labour due to increased demand for overtime-paying construction repair jobs" -- did the UN consider allocating more money to completing the "Permanent Broadcast Facility in the Conference Building"?

Was any estimate made of how much extra it would cost to finish as previously stated, in February? If not, why not? We ask in light of extra costs as in [other] Skanska change orders....

That negotiation process was not transparent -- it is for transparency that we are committed to continuing to post fliers, as currently or in as now request on an "approved" FUNCA bulletin board or unbranded (no longer UNCA) UN Journalists' bulletin board.

All of the other outstanding questions -- including the UN correspondents' due process question that was put by the NYCLU to the UN on July 5, 2012, are reiterated.

Watch this site.

From the UN's January 25, 2013 transcript:

Inner City Press: last night, the Department of Public Information put out a directive saying that there are no flyers allowed within the UN, regardless of what they say, including substantive comment, and what I am wondering is what is the UN’s position? On the right of free speech? Since these are flyers critical of DPI’s performance, can they take them down, and by what right does the United Nations Correspondents Association have a glassed-in bulletin board on which they have denounced other journalists?  Please explain.

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq:  I think this is an issue on which you need to talk it over with the Department of Public Information.

Inner City Press: I have written to Peter
, and I don’t have an answer yet.

Associate Spokesperson Haq:  I am sure they will be in touch with you.  Thanks very much.

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