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From DRC to UNSC Stakeout & UNTV, UN Won't Practice What It Preaches, Free Speech Banned?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- Around the world, increasingly the UN does not even pretend to practice what it preaches. In Haiti it dismisses legal claims that it brought cholera to the island; so much for accountability and the rule of law.

   In the Congo the UN continues working with Army units which engaged in mass rape in Minova, and then won't answer about it, video here. So much for zero tolerance.

  But this trend can be found right inside UN headquarters. We'll have more to say about the "Media Access Guidelines" the UN Department of Public Information and its partner finalized on June 12, banning free speech and hindering media coverage of the Security Council which DPI is supposed to facilitate.

  We'll start with the audio / visual technicians who work in the UN.

  This week the contract they work under was transferred to a new company, "TeamPeople." Some have worked for decades in the UN -- but this week they were unceremoniously told to re-apply for their jobs. TeamPeople sent a Human Resources person into the UN to hand out applications.

  Meanwhile TeamPeople started advertising for new and presumably cheaper workers, on CraigList. They broke a rule against using the UN name, in a corporate press release.

  Other workers in the UN, in the cafeteria, have faced layoffs because the UN allows the contractor Aramark to cut the hours, to not re-open the Delegates Lounge and Dining Room on which the UN spent so much renovating.

  Speaking of spending, the UN gives a big room or "clubhouse" to the so-called UN Correspondents Association, which not only doesn't represent all UN correspondents but which has tried to get some correspondents thrown out. (Here is Voice of America's request to DPI, which VOA said Reuters and AFP supported.) Maybe that's WHY UNCA gets the big space: they are the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  But now the UN and UNCA have issued Media Access Guidelines which try to make UNCA the only group which can speak.

  There are UNCA signs on and above the door of its UN provided clubhouse; now a rule seeks to tell non-UNCA journalists they cannot put even on the door to their office the sign or name of the new Free UN Coalition for Access. This is like, some say, North Korea - and it is not acceptable.

  At the same Security Council stakeout where the audio - visual workers have had to mark their turf with yellow duct tape and run extension chords after the $2 billion renovation, journalists under the UN - UNCA rules are forced to sit on the ground, not allowed chairs or a table to type on.

More Security Council members on Wednesday told Inner City Press they had nothing to do with this rule. As Inner City Press noted at the June 12 noon briefing, even one UNCA Executive Committee member claimed he hadn't agreed:

Inner City Press: on this question of the General Assembly, Iíve asked that, and DPI has said there will not be any, other than photo booths, way to cover the GA. So, I wanted to ask you, earlier today, something purporting to be the media access guidelines was finalized. It says that itís in agreement with UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association]; it says that it can be no permanent workspace for the media in front of the Security Council, no flyers are allowed. I spoke to one UNCA executive committee member who said he didnít agree to it, so I wanted to know, since the UN put it out, whoís behind the rule? Is there going to be the GA limitation? Has this been agreed to by UNCA, as well? And how does this square with DPI telling the Free UN Coalition for Access that they are still considering installing benches and tables? Why was this rule finalized at this time with your name of your office on it?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Matthew, youíre going to have to check with DPI on that. I think weíve gone into this on several occasions with you. Weíve said everything we have to say from this podium. Speak with DPI. They are the ones thatÖ

Inner City Press: Well, weíre having a lot of frustration. For example, the GA, they said there was no change.

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, you have to deal with that. I know they reply to your emails. I know they reply to your questions. Sometimes, of course, the answers arenít what you want to hear, but they do reply to your questions.

Inner City Press: Sometimes, the answers arenít accurate. Thatís why Iím asking here.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, they do reply to your questions.

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