Free Press Decay at UN: Less Q&A and No Due Process or Disclosure; Reforms Then Next SG

As Ban Ki-moon’s final six months as UN Secretary General begin, the need for a UN Freedom of Information Act and increased media access become ever more clear.

Ban has held fewer and fewer press conferences. Basic information is withheld, or given out only selectively. Journalists at the UN have no due process rights: investigative files and long-time offices can be evicted and accreditation status reduced without a single hearing, and with no transparency or right to appeal. The Free UN Coalition for Access says this is UNacceptable.

To require journalists with, or arbitrarily reduced to, Non-Resident Correspondent status to only be able to stake-out the General Assembly, and meetings in the ECOSOC or Trusteeship Council Chamber when accompanied by a minder or “escort” is also UNacceptable. There is no reason such correspondents have no access to in-house EZTV or high speed downloads of UN videos.

As asserted on January 29, 2016, and before that when the UN Spokesman tried to “lend” the UN Press Briefing Room to French President Francois Hollande for a session limited to the French traveling press, that room should not be privatized to some but not all UN journalists. And principled disagreements in this regard cannot legitimately give rise to physical expulsion.

An “Aide Memoire” the UN sent to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, here, says that there is no written record that the January 29 session was a closed meeting. (Meanwhile, the Under Secretary General of DPI told Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta that there is an “internal report” – one of the two statements is UNtrue, as was the belated response after two months, and after eviction, to Special Rapporteurs Kaye’s and Forst’s February 25 inquiry.)

But at a minimum, pending reforms from the Next SG, any such privatization must be in writing and disclosed to all correspondents in advance. Rules or Handbooks the violation of which are claimed to justify expulsion must be publicly available. The actions taken without due process and based on a Handbook not available to correspondents must be reversed.

And an organization which cheers, narcs and brings about the expulsion of investigative media cannot be a legitimate representative of journalists covering the UN. It has all changed.

Overall, media access must improve at the UN. The UN needs a Freedom of Information Act. FUNCA will work on this. Watch this space.