As UN Tries to Limit Press Freedom & Access, & Its Partner UNCA Goes Along, FUNCA Won’t

The work of the Free UN Coalition for Access continues, on issues ranging from the UN’s exclusion of the press from Ban Ki-moon’s GA speech to its lack of due process for journalists. We’ll use this post to raise another issue of how the UN limits accreditation.

Beyond requiring and processing letters of support from governments for reporters’ accreditation, in tortured language complete with brackets, the UN’s Accreditation Requirement state that DPI “must be satisfied that the individuals applying for accreditation are bona fide media professionals and represent bona fide media organizations [formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly].”

Truly opposition media does not get licensed; under the First Amendment in the US no license is required. But UNCA has signed off on these rules, and is a party to the “Media Access Guidelines” that are too limited. So FUNCA has directly asked the head of DPI to justify or change this.

In a small example of a wider problem, DPI on January 24 tried to limit free speech via flyer only to UNCA, with its glassed-in bulletin board. After a FUNCA protest, DPI said enforcement was postpone. FUNCA has formally requested that the “UNCA” board be open to all, or for an alternative board. In the interim, UNCA “activists” moved from defacing and counterfeiting FUNCA flyers to simply tearing them down. Is this an entity which supports freedom of the speech and of the press? No.

During Ban’s January 22 GA speech, it was FUNCA trying to get into the room, then complaining including at Ban’s press conference. (In a January 24 letter, UNCA tried to raise this issue: not its.)

In a January 25 conversation with the New York Civil Liberties Union, FUNCA learned that UN DPI officials Stephane Dujarric and Maher Nasser never answered NYCLU’s July 5 question, after UNCA’s dis-accreditation attempt, about what rights journalists at the UN have to know of such complaints. And so FUNCA has put the question to the USG himself. But where is the answer?

While UNCA is belatedly raising the lack of booths over the Security Council, it was UNCA with which the UN negotiated this and the 40% reduction in media space. Too little too late. FUNCA is raising it.

About these fliers, MALU on January 24 said they would be taken down past weekend. But after a FUNCA free speech protest, also raising the absurdity of UNCA’s glassed in bulletin board which they used for denunciation in 2012, MALU said enforcement was postponed. Still UNCA tore down a dozen FUNCA fliers. Is UNCA a free speech organizations defending journalists’ rights? No.

Now MALU points again to the BCSS Policy, which only applies to advertisements by Permanent Missions or UN Departments. Does the UN not understand free speech and equal treatment? We’ll see.