UN Needs Freedom of Information Act, Now More Than Ever, FUNCA Presses

September 15, 2014 — While the UN holds another General Assembly debate, it still does not recognize any right by the press and public to access: the UN has no Freedom of Information Act.

The Free UN Coalition for Access, which presses for greater access to information and access in matters large and small, has since its beginning asked the UN why it does not recognize this basic right, even as the UN preaches about openness and accountability.

On September 15, the question was put to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric, in light of these quotes from the Columbia Journalism Review: “Inner City Press… reported that Burnham’s successor, Alicia Barcena, said it would be in place by the end of 2007. But the General Assembly never agreed on the scheme, and it was quietly shelved. ‘There were differing views among Member States about what constituted openness,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in an email.’”

Dujarric answered FUNCA by saying the General Assembly had declined to act in the past to establish a budget for FOIA-like office. Video here. But this misses the point: the Secretary General has on other issues pushed for General Assembly results, for example on so-called “mobility” of staff; he has implemented mandates without GA approval. Does Ban just not like Freedom of Information? These are questions that FUNCA will continue to ask.

CJR also quoted some correspondents happy to just get leaks and text from their Western sources. This same organization, beyond its Executive Committee trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN (documents obtained under US FOIA, here and here), earlier this year withheld the transcript of its set-aside question and answer session with Ban Ki-moon even from its own members. It was in order to pursue more access to information — and the protection of the rights of investigative journalists against such insider approaches — that the Free UN Coalition for Access was founded, and why it opposes set-asides.

  FUNCA says it is absurd for the UN Secretariat to blame member states for its own refusal to be transparent with its own financial information. Furthermore, how can Ban Ki-moon’s UN make claims about “we the peoples” while blaming unnamed governments for banning accountability to the peoples?

  We the peoples, informed by the press with a right to information: FUNCA will push forward. Contact us, on access issues large and small, through funca [at] FUNCA.info, @FUNCA_info Watch this site.