June 20 — When from an open meeting involving the UN Secretary General and Peacekeeping commanders the Press is thrown out by guards, as happened on June 18, the UN has hit a new low. That the ejection was performed by the Secretary General’s security detail, and the Secretary General did nothing, makes the decay all the worse. The Free UN Coalition for Access opposes this.
Earlier on June 18, amid questions about the Secretary General’s Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the SG appeared at the Security Council stakeout and made a statement — but then left before any questions could be asked. FUNCA opposes this too.
Given the literal closing of media Q&A space and meetings at the UN, FUNCA particularly opposes set-aside first questions for those who doesn’t challenge these exclusions but in fact have tried themselves to exclude and expel, and who don’t push for increased access for all. What has the Department of Public Information done about any of this?
For example, recently journalists forced to flee Burundi after their radio and TV studios were burned wrote to the SG and his team. The journalists in danger sent a copy of their letter to FUNCA, due to previous lack of responsiveness by the UN, and FUNCA asked the UN about it. But today’s UN and DPI didn’t confirm receipt at first, and have seemingly done nothing since. FUNCA opposes this.
Recently the High Level Panel on Peace Operation said in its report at Paragraph 282 that “Sometimes peace operations are slow and reactive in getting their messages out; at other times the messages are convoluted or obscure. At other times, peace operations appear mute and introverted, which conveys its own very particular message.” FUNCA agrees. This must change.
The SG’s spokesman, when FUNCA asked about the exclusion from a listen open meeting, said that the decision to open the meeting “was taken late and I think everybody that should have known didn’t know.” Transcript here; video here. This may imply that had the USG for Peacekeeping moved to overrule or veto that the meeting was open, the UN would have accepted it. But it was listed the night before. That has to be enough notice. The USG for Peacekeeping, surrounded by scandal including in Haiti and the Central African Republic, cannot be allowed to throw media out of open meeting or as he did on June 18, try to even stop photographs at a hallway photo-op, as FUNCA for photographers has raised.
Overall, the UN desperately needs a Freedom of Information Act, as basic information about high officials’ relatives business dealing with the UN are not disclosed. Some journalists are not allowed into the UN, while recently a listed Al Qaeda terrorist was, and met with the SG, in the Palais de Nations. FUNCA asked about this, without any clear explanation.
Before the General Debate in September, and the selection of the next SG after that, these media access issues must be addressed. FUNCA will continue pushing: the UN must be more open and accessible, on a fair basis. At a minimum, the SG’s Security must never again exclude media from meetings listed as “open,” even if a USG in retaliation for reporting requests it. Watch this site.