FUNCA Points Out Need for UN to Take Input from Press & Public, Protests Lockouts, Eviction of News Agency of Nigeria

If the UN is supposed to be accountable to “we the peoples” and to all 193 member states equally, why was the News Agency of Nigeria thrown out of its work space at the UN? The Free UN Coalition for Access raised this question at the UN’s June 4 noon briefing, but no explanation was given. Video here. So FUNCA has asked both MALU and the top of the Department of Public Information.

Among the questions: are all media treated fairly? As the New York Civil Liberties Union asked the UN – the current UN spokesman – in 2012 after an attempt to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, are there any provisions for due process for journalists at and by the UN?

That attempt to throw out the Press was fought off. But the UN has thrown the News Agency of Nigeria out. Its name was simply cut off the door to what had been its office space. Photo, by FUNCA member Luiz Rampelotto, at http://www.innercitypress.com/nangone1funca.JPG

The Free UN Coalition for Access opposes the move, particularly since other privileged media have been allowed to leave their assigned offices empty and unused for long periods – the rationale used by the UN to evict less favored media.

FUNCA continues to push for this, and for example for the UN to belatedly take some action on French Ambassador Gerard Araud, in the middle of a UN press conference in the UN Press Briefing Room, telling a correspondent, “You are not a journalist, you are an agent.” Video here.

But the UN would not convey, even in its typically wan fashion, the stated position that correspondents should be treated with respect to Araud or the French Mission. The UN must do better.

FUNCA has also asked, more mundanely, why journalists are often locked out of their offices by the doors from the escalators not opening when their ID cards are swiped. This problems has been ongoing but remained a problem on June 4. So FUNCA has raised it to the top of DPI.

Regarding who will come to head DPI, FUNCA continues to believe that journalists should have input, at least into the criteria and qualifications for the position. In fact, input should be solicited as widely as possible, for example through a Twitter Q&A.

FUNCA has received complaints from journalists far beyond New York that the UN is not only not answering them, but is actively putting and leaving them in jeopardy, for most recent example in Burundi. On this wider question, as well as doors and office space, FUNCA will continue to work. The UN and its partners must do better.

Update: after publication of the above, the UN has responded it will look into the lock-outs, it is open to News Agency of Nigeria regaining the lost office space (we’ll monitor this) and states that it did not recently rip down Free UN Coalition for Access fliers. We’ll see.

Update II: the UN has said, regarding the locked doors: “We have already been in touch with security regarding the south doors and someone will be working on those today. I asked Lt. Figueroa to also look at the doors.” A sign was put up later on June 5 that doors will be open 8 am to 8 pm. But that journalists must be able to access their work space, particularly but not only because there are UN event, such as “Walesa: Man of Hope,” which run past 8 pm. FUNCA will continue to push that bans on access be removed.

Regarding tear-down / censorship of fliers, the UN on June 5 told FUNCA: “ we did not remove that flyer and we will not remove the one you just put up.”

And after back and forth regarding the eviction of the News Agency of Nigeria, the UN tells FUNCA, “ if a new correspondent is accredited to the UN, the Agency will have a space in the building.” The Free UN Coalition for Access will stay on this.