Press Freedom at the UN Must Include the Right to Information, No Searches, No Set-Asides

   When any UN accredited journalist comes under fire from his or her home country, the UN should live up to its stated commitment to freedom of the press and support the journalist, rather than either take a hands-off approach as recently, or even solicit complaints as occurred and led to the forming of the Free UN Coalition for Access.

Given a recent incident in which a UN member state tried to question the accreditation of a journalist for the questions he was asking, it is imperative that journalists have a right to see all complaints against them: such complaints are not “private,” much less subject to copyright. See NYCLU letter to the UN, here. More fundamentally, the UN needs a Freedom of Information Act.

It was stated on March 11 that there is no tradition of set-aside first questions at the stakeout. Whatever alleged tradition there may have been in the Press Briefing Room is limited to the Secretariat (see, Chad’s December 2014 press conference) and is contested. There should be fair and equal opportunity for all journalists.

Trips to the field on which the UN spends money, including trips by the Security Council, should provide fair and transparent opportunities for all UN accredited journalists and should not again be privatized to individual member states.

The UN should not search the possessions, files or storage space of journalists; electronic swipe card information should not be used to track journalists’ whereabouts. Under Secretaries General should hold press availabilities and answer the questions asked. The Department of Public Information must accept input from and provide responses to the full range of the UN press corps.  We’ll have more on this.