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UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

FILE - The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground.
FILE - The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground.

The United Nations has rejected a bid from a nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted "consultative status," a ranking that would have given them greater access to U.N. meetings.

For the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which works to "defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal," the ruling was seen as rebuke from governments that oppose their mission.

“It is sad that the U.N., which has taken up the issue of press freedom through Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and through the adoption of the U.N. Action Plan, has denied accreditation to CPJ, which has a deep and useful knowledge that would inform decision making," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement.

UN access

Consultative status would have ensured CPJ’s ability to access U.N. bodies and proceedings, and allowed it to host independent journalists and organizations at the U.N.

More than 4,000 other nongovernment organizations currently have active consultative status, according to the U.N. However rights groups such as Freedom House and others have been accused by U.N. members of carrying out political agendas, imperiling their status.

In the vote on CPJ's bid, of the 19 representatives on the committee, 10 voted against CPJ’s application, six voted in favor and three abstained.

Dr. Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at CPJ said, “Obviously we’re disappointed, but not terribly surprised. It’s heartening to see how many organizations, leaders and journalists have come to speak on our behalf, including Ban Ki-Moon.”

Ban is secretary-general of the United Nations.

Committee members representing China, Cuba, Russia and Pakistan were among those voting against CPJ’s application for consultative status. South Africa also voted “no”, but said it was because of procedural questions, not because South Africa objects to CPJ's application.

Rejection seen as campaign

Dr. Robert Herman, vice president for international programs at Freedom House, a watchdog organization with goals similar to CPJ, sees the rejection as part of a campaign against rights groups.

“They’re engaged in a systematic effort not just to stifle dissent, but also to prevent civil society organizations, particularly those that are involved in democracy and human rights, from carrying out their work domestically," Herman said.

He said that ultimately the governments want to block groups that highlight rights abuses from bringing those issues into the United Nations.

“The whole process has become so politicized. If you look at the governments that are on there, voting about whether to give consultative status to organizations that at home they would never tolerate or allow to operate ... when they have the ability to vote to keep them away from the U.N., they’re going to exercise that,” Herman said.

“The deeper question is how can the U.N. allow this to happen? That they have a composition of membership like this is a serious problem,” he added.