As 2014 began, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the president of South Korea, whose office then gave the media a read-out. But the UN, even when asked on January 2, refused to give a read-out, telling the press, “we don’t put out readouts of all the calls. I can confirm that this is a phone call that took place between the Secretary-General and the President of the Republic of Korea. But no, there’s no readout of that call.”
The Free UN Coalition for Access says read-outs of Secretary General calls, especially to heads of state, should be given. Likewise, the whereabouts and full schedule of the Secretary General should be disclosed, as is the case for public officials with less staff and budget than the UN.
While sometimes UN noon briefings are canceled, FUNCA asserts that the spokespeople should nevertheless, or especially then, answer questions by e-mail. Information should not be given out selectively, as appears to have happened most recently regarding the Japanese shrine visit.
No discrimination or double standards, no favoritism: first questions shouldn’t be reserved, particularly in light of the type of gifts disclosed by the UN on December 10 (and shown in November 25 minutes but reversed and supposedly denied on January 2). Under Secretaries General should hold press conferences, and should not be allowed to declare they won’t answer particular media’s questions.
In terms of working conditions and access, FUNCA continues to call for working tables and electrical outlets at the Security Council stakeout and in the various media booths over conference rooms and the temporary General Assembly Hall in the North Lawn building.
As those who cover the US White House said last year, officials “are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government… The right of journalists to gather the news is most critical when covering government officials.”
Things are worse at the UN than the White House, the UN makes some officials only available to its own UN News Centre (to which even a question about Haiti cholera was referred by the UN Spokesperson’s Office). Why hasn’t this trend yet been more widely opposed inside the UN? Why are first questions at press conferences reserved? The two seem to be related. FUNCA is protesting this. No discrimination, no double standards, no favoritism, equal and increasing access: these are FUNCA’s principles.