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As UN Squeezes Press Out, Gives Space to NYT Which "Never" Comes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 27 -- The UN, which preaches for rule of law all over the world, says that media organizations must come to its headquarters at least three days a week to be given office space and resident correspondent status.

  But as Inner City Press raised to the UN on December 27 during the UN's meeting announcing the layout of media space in the refurbished headquarters, the New York Times has not used or even entered its UN office since at least October.

  For more than a year, the New York Times has failed to comply with the three days a week rule. So why it is being assigned its own office, while other media have been told to leave?

   Inner City Press prefaced its question with "all due respect;" the Times is fine newspaper. But shouldn't they want to play by the rules? Shouldn't they have to, at the UN?

  A check by Inner City Press on December 26 found months' old fliers sticking out under the door of the New York Times' office, Room L-231. A long time correspondent concurred, "the Times is never here any more." UNTV archived video bears this out. Only the UN, applying a double standard it won't admit to, is in denial.

  This obvious double standard is emblematic of the UN. As regards media accreditation, 2012 saw an attempt to "review the accreditation" of Inner City Press, filed by Voice of America which said it had the support of Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

  All three are members of the UN Correspondents Association's executive committee, which on December 19 extended its term in office, to continue unchange, even nominating its successors.

  Even after the New York Civil Liberties Union asked the UN what rules applied to accreditation, and if Inner City Press was being challenged based on the content of its publications -- which among other things question the performance of Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping -- the UN never responded with a set of rules.

  The UN, it seems, is all about who you know. How else to explain some freelancers being granted accreditation, and others being kept outside?

  After its experience in 2012, including on December 18 seeing Ladsous' Peacekeeping spokesman attempt to seize the UN TV microphone so that Inner City Press could not ask a question about UN inaction on the Congolese Army rapes in Minova, Inner City Press and others have founded the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA.

  FUNCA has so far raised to the UN, for action, the appropriateness of Ladsous seizing the microphone and refusing to answer questions, the double standards in accreditation and now in the assignment of space, using the New York Times as the example.

 In full disclosure, while Inner City Press for FUNCA on December 27 raised cases of an Egyptian journalist on the now-longer waiting list for a space, and a photographer forced through the metal detectors, Inner City Press is depicted sharing space with an Asian news service, which is fine. Advocacy should be for those who need it.

  Under this UNCA's executive committee's watch, media space at the UN is being reduced by 40%. After this loss, rather than look at which media actually come to cover the UN, favoritism is the rule. The UNCA executive committee members have been well taken care of (by themselves).

   Voice of America is depicted with its own office with four seats, as is Agence France-Presse (which tried to coax or coach the UN into describing its criteria as something other than favoritism).

  Photographers and staff of AFP and Reuters, no matter how infrequently they come to the UN, are given White passes to allow them in without metal detectors, while smaller media who are denied space must pass through metal detectors and experience other barriers to coverage.

  In the floor plan, there is not only an UNCA Club -- there is an UNCA office, and even an UNCA Pantry. Why would the UN need to brand its kitchenette with its company union? What's going on here?

  There is not enough coverage of the UN -- on December 24, Inner City Press was the only media organization in front of the General Assembly covering its meeting on the UN's $5.4 billion budget. The answer is to allow in more people, and to treat them fairly. Watch this site.

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