The upcoming UN General Assembly debate week will not be entirely closed to the media after all, the Free UN Coalition for Access has learned.
After two months of protests by FUNCA of the elimination of all 53 media seats in the interim General Assembly, on the morning of August 15 an official of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management told FUNCA that now “some” media seats will be set aside of the GA floor.
“I heard about your questions,” the official said. But the Department of Public Information to which the questions were directed never answered at all.
On June 10, in connection with opposing a set of anti-access rules promulgated by DPI, FUNCA wrote to the top officials of DPI protesting that media and civil society were not allowed onto the new General Assembly hall in the North Lawn building.
FUNCA also noted that the media booths above the GA floor, for photographers, had no tables, no interpretation, and a single broken chair. (That remains the case today, August 15 — nothing has been improved.)
DPI’s answer was to threaten to suspend or withdraw accreditation for hanging a sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access on the door of a shared office, despite the “United Nations Correspondents Association” having five signs.
While DPI had in the past at least replied to access questions raised by twitter on @FUNCA_info, of late it has not replied to any such questions, including about stakeout videos not put online, and about the media seats in the GA.
Question: in the upcoming General Assembly general debate week in the new interim General Assembly Hall, zero seats for the press or the public, which in the past could be in this mezzanine. So, what I wanted to know, it’s been difficult to find out, how that decision was made. It seems like it will be the first year, admittedly it’s a new space, but who, how was the decision made how these hundred and some seats in the back of the room are allocated and that none would go to the public or press?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to find out for you, Matthew, I am not privy to that information, number one. Number two, it’s a much less… it’s a much smaller venue, and arrangements have had to be made, first of all, so that delegates and Member State delegates can be there.
Question: Given the things the Secretary-General said about civil society, etcetera, it seems if every class that sort of has a stake in the UN was reduced, it would be one thing, but now nothing for at least two classes of stakeholders, absolutely, so I just wanted to know who made the decision and how it was made.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as I said, I’ll have to find out for you, I don’t have that information.
But by August 15 no answer was given. The DGACM official told FUNCA he heard the question, and DGACM would now set aside some seats for media, finalizing it in a “coordination” meeting next week. Watch this site.