Sunday, January 22, 2017

New UNSG Guterres Hold Town Hall, Press Banned UNlike In Previous Years By Gallach

By Matthew Russell Lee
Update - UN censorship
UNITED NATIONS, January 9 -- When new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held his first Town Hall meeting on January 9, Inner City Press went in early to stake it out - that is, stand in front and speak to attendees -- as it has in previous years.
   But this year, due to a retaliatory eviction by former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's head of communications Cristina Gallach and Ban's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Inner City Press could not pass through the turnstile on the UN's second floor. And there was no one in Gallach's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit office. Inner City Press and its coverage were banned.
  So here was the notice the UN sent out, provided to Inner City Press by UN staff:
“Dear colleagues, 
Secretary-General António Guterres will hold a first global townhall meeting with UN staff on Monday, 9 January 2017 from 9 - 10:30 am (NY time) in the ECOSOC Chamber at United Nations Headquarters in New York. 
Many duty stations away from New York will participate via video-teleconference. All staff members of the UN Secretariat, as well as Agencies, Funds and Programmes, are encouraged to attend the townhall in person if they are in New York. 
UN Staff, do you have a comment or a suggestion you would like to share with Secretary-General Guterres? 
You may submit comments or questions HERE (anonymous submission is possible)... A selection of frequently asked questions submitted by staff will be presented during the Townhall meeting. 
Following the townhall meeting, a summary of the meeting will be posted on iSeek -  the UN Intranet, including responses to questions submitted online or any issues which may not be fully addressed during the townhall meeting.
Warm regards,
The Department of Management “
   We'll have more on this.
The United Nations at the beginning of 2017 still has no Freedom of Information Act, no content neutral standards for media accreditation and no right to due process or appeal for journalists. This is UNacceptable.
New UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres should be expected to address these issues, and to hold at least monthly sit-down press conferences. On January 6 holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric indicated he would wait for something to announce. But Q&A should not be tied to a particular UN announcement.
   Downgrading to non-resident correspondent status, and eviction from UN work-space, is not a legitimate way to respond to coverage of UN irregularities and corruption such as that alleged in the ongoing Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe UN bribery case. It must be reversed, but also non-resident correspondents should not be restricted to minders or escorts to cover events on the Conference Building's second floor.
On January 6, Dujarric and DPI's Cristina Gallach led Guterres on a tour that implied that only those who pay money to a group which last month gave an award to anti-press Ban Ki-moon, and who are granted (and not evicted in retaliation from) UN office space are part of the UN press corps. Click here for Inner City Press' story, and YouTube video. This will ill-serve Guterres, and the UN.

New SG Guterres is toured around by Gallach & Dujarric, Jan 6, 2017, photo by M.R. Lee
  Beyond headquarters, the UN in the field must become more responsive to local journalists. A Free UN Coalition for Accessmember in Hargeisa, Somaliland complains that the UN in Mogadishu refuses to answer simple journalistic questions. The same has occurred in Colombia, while the UN's leadership in Kenya has informed staff not to speak to particular media. This is UNacceptable.
  That former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, among his very first acts upon leaving the UN, took legal action against reports of possible corruption during his tenure reflects badly on the UN. 
FUNCA hopes for a better 2017, but hope is not enough. The UN needs a FOIA, a reversal of recent anti-press decisions and due process and content neutral standards, and at least monthly Secretary General press conferences, going forward. We will have more on this; watch this site.