With Correspondents Now Limited to UNSC Pen, DPI Must Explain & Have a Single Standard

For the August 21 Syria meeting of the UN Security Council, there was the most reduced press access to the Security Council in years. Already the media work table that existed at the stakeout before and during the renovation relocation was removed.

  Last week, the UN Department of “Public” Information unilaterally changed the rules further, telling correspondents could no longer stand in the six foot wide space south of the entrance steps and north of the new Turkish Lounge.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access immediately sought an explanation from DPI’s Stephane Dujarric then, having no response, at the August 21 UN noon briefing. After that, Dujarric replied to FUNCA:

“u asked to the q to a MALU staff and they answered. U may not have liked the answer but that’s the answer. thx”

FUNCA replied: So when did policy change? To whom was it explained?

Beyond dismissive, since no explanation of the unilateral reduction has been given, it is also confusing: on August 21 another MALU staffer said, you can stand in that space for some period of time and look in, but you can’t stay there. So, how long?

  FUNCA has written to the top of DPI:

This is a request for a written statement and explanation of where correspondents can work (stand and ask questions) from at the UNSC stakeout.

In a change of policy, FUNCA was informed this week that correspondents now CANNOT be in the space south of the steps, before the Turkish Lounge.

FUNCA asked Stephane Dujarric about this… He’s responded that the MALU answer is the answer. WHICH Malu answer? Earlier this week, or today? When was this policy changed? To whom was it explained?

But even two days later, no response. To be clear, it’s not for DPI much less its Alliance to tell journalists where to have on the record communications.

  Second, it must be noted that DPI and that Alliance in May 2013 proposed rules including that “On-the-record interviews should be conducted in front of the stakeout microphone. Correspondents must remain behind the steel fence.”

FUNCA immediately submitted opposition and revisions, on this explaining that

“previously the Security Council stakeout had a table / workspace. The interim Security Council as well. We do not accept going backwards, or those who would agree to this. It is shocking that the drafters / negotiators of these rules, apparently including the UNCA Executive Committee (see below) would purport to dictate even what correspondents can post on the doors of their offices. Particularly since the UN, despite the recent history, has decided to gave UNCA a big office “clubhouse,” it is distasteful to try to restrict the speech of others on fliers on their doors. Again, pardon the tone: FUNCA does not accept this.

“In fact, UNCA should not be a listed party to the UN’s Media Access Guidelines. As you know, not all accredited correspondents are members of UNCA; far from it. Particular given the references / threats to suspension or withdrawal of accreditation for violation of the Guidelines, UNCA should not be a party. The attempt to limit access to the Delegates’ Lounge to resident correspondents is not acceptable. It is not for these rules to dictate where on the record interviews take place – it is for the journalist and the subject (hence the deletion).”

  And while many anti free press proposals remained in the final rule, this totally indefensible one about where on the record interviews may be conducted was removed. 

On August 23 after the Security Council meeting on Sudan and South Sudan, a FUNCA member was greeted by one of the concerned diplomats and told to come speak with him at the entrance of the so called Turkish Lounge. The FUNCA member was conversing with the diplomat when UN Security ordered him back into the penned-in stakeout. This is supposedly not the rule; the rule according to the Department of Public Information has supposedly not changed. But as was seen moments later with a Western P-3 Deputy Permanent Representative, DPI has double standards.

  In fairness FUNCA has been told by DPI that “e looked to see if some chairs with a tablet were available as people have moved, but none were. We added one bench and will try to add another one;” DPI was praised earlier on August 23, for a briefing by UN Security chief Kevin Kennedy.

  But clearly DPI needs to explain its (new?) rules, to all reporters at the UN and to UN Security. And double standards, and further reductions, will be opposed by the Free UN Coalition for Access. Watch this site.