March 20, 2017: At United Nations headquarters 80 days into 2017 there has been only one sit-down press conference involving the Secretary General. There are few to no read-outs of meetings with Foreign Ministers or even conversations with heads of state.
Notice of travel is not given and, as is complained of in Washington, media are handpicked to cover particular legs of trips. The UN still has no Freedom of Information Act, no content neutral standards for media accreditation and no rights to due process or appeal for journalists. All this is UNacceptable.
Now a new head of the Department of Public Information is being sought. The process should be more transparent and candidates should be required to make their positions on the above issues known. Several unilateral and lawless decisions must be reversed, and also non-resident correspondents should not be restricted to minders or escorts to cover events on the Conference Building’s second floor. There is no reason that correspondents at the UN every day should not have equal access, including to EZTV broadcasts of UN events not on public webcast.
Beyond headquarters, the UN in the field must become more responsive to local journalists. A Free UN Coalition for Access member in Cameroon was blocked by the UN’s Resident Coordinator in that country, a practice engaged in by other UN officials, and inappropriately endorsed by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General. The UN needs a FOIA, a reversal of 2016’s anti-press decisions and due process and content neutral standards, and at least monthly UN Secretary General press conferences going forward. We’ll have more on this: watch this space.