September 9, 2017 – For UN General Assembly 72, the UN says it will be restricting access in Headquarters, including limiting walk-around passes for the Conference Room basement to those to which it gives office space. This two-tier system is UNjustifiable. When it was announced on Sept 8, for the first time in years no UN Security official was there to be accountable; nor was new DPI Under Secretary General Alison Smale present or answering questions. This is UNacceptable, as is the weakened wi-fi and lack of LAN lines for journalists.
At UNHQ more than 245 days into 2017 there has still been only one sit-down press conference involving this Secretary General, who stopped issuing read-outs or even notice of most of his communications to heads of state and ministers. Will this be addressed when he belatedly takes questions on September 13?
The trial and six guilty verdicts for UN bribery against Ng Lap Seng, sole funder of South South News, show the UN, its Department of Public Information and partners were compromised and need reform. But proposals for reforms are hardly publicized. The UN still has no Freedom of Information Act, no content neutral standards for accreditation and no rights to due process or appeal for journalists.
There is a fundamental conflict of interest: DPI, charged with pushing out a pro-UN message, also has unfettered discretion in granting work space and full access (or not) to the media which cover the UN, now including passes for #UNGA72. The UN needs a FOIA, and to fairly treat journalists in a content neutral way. The run-up to the High Level Week itself & after will be a test. Watch this space.