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UN Says OK to Expel Journalists On Secret Complaints, Like UNCA Made

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 20 -- The NY Civil Liberties Union on July 5, 2012 asked the UN to explain its procedure for reviewing the accreditation of journalists, citing Voice of America's request for such review of the accreditation of Inner City Press filed on June 20.

 Click here for VOA's filing, here for the NYCLU's public letter.

   The UN claims to have explained its procedures to the NYCLU, but has refused to tell Inner City Press what its explanation was, most recently on January 17.

   Rather it is Inner City Press' understanding, based on the UN not notifying it of VOA's or an earlier complaint about a mere verbal disagreement filed by Reuters' bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, that the only due process right the UN accords journalists is to be told of a complaint AFTER accreditation has been removed or denied.

   This is not due process at all: it is like getting a trial only after one is convicted.

   How has the UN been allowed to maintain such a Kafka-esque procedure? The UN has as a formal partner to its Media Access Guidelines the UN Correspondents Association. UNCA would have been the entity to push the UN to uphold journalists' rights.

   But UNCA can no longer do that, if it ever did. As revealed in Voice of America documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, in June 2012 UNCA was "meeting with the UN (very quietly)" in order to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.

   UNCA never informed Inner City Press of those "quiet" meetings with the UN, just as Reuters' Charbonneau never informed Inner City Press of his earlier complaint to UN official Stephane Dujarric (who also did not inform Inner City Press).

   Inner City Press understands that the UN believes that complainants against journalists desire and are entitled to secrecy.

  Be that as it may -- in the case of Charbonneau's complaint this would be inapplicable, since he sent copies to Tim Witcher of Agence France-Presse and others like these two still on the UNCA Executive Committee -- the UN has carried this dubious position to an extreme.

 A journalist would only be notified of a complaint (and even then not of the identity of the complainant) AFTER the UN threw them out.

   UNCA cannot reform this. In fact, UNCA should not be allowed to any longer be a party, formal or otherwise, to the UN's Media Guidelines.

   The UN designating its space for journalists as the "UNCA Club" and automatically giving UNCA the first question at press conferences should not continue.

    These and any and all other UN steps which prop up the legitimacy of UNCA, after its secret complaint(s) against the press, is contrary to the rights of independent journalists.

   And as the NYCLU publicly requested on July 5, 2012, the UN must disclose and appropriately reform its policies on the rights of journalists. The Free UN Coalition for Access will be working on these and other related UN press freedom issues. Watch FUNCA and this site.

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