"....The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the Secretary-General to senior managers for their failings especially in situations where it has led to death and disability....."
- UN Staff Union
Friday, July 30, 2010
UN Against the Media, Bloggers and the New, Story of a Footnote from Ban's No Whistleblower Zone
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- The UN, which preaches about disseminating information and even hires pro-UN bloggers, has resisted including the word “bloggers” in its Media Accreditation Guidelines, which it has said it will put online on July 30. Check here.
At that time, in the NYT piece, the UN “said that guidelines for bloggers are a work in progress. The goal is to balance concerns about openness, security and professional standards with growing interest from online journalists.”
Yet even now, the UN refuses to put even the word “blogger” in its accreditation guidelines. The distinction seems to be between pro-UN blogs or those owned and controlled by large corporations and those with critical independence.
This year, the UN Correspondents Association executive board, to which this reporter was elected, twice after debate and votes submitted language to MALU that they should explicitly include “bloggers” the Accreditation Guidelines, for which the UN wanted UNCA's concurrence.
But following the first submission of UNCA suggestions, the UN accepted every proposal except on bloggers. After a second UNCA submission -- this time addressing concerns by referring to “journalists who are bloggers” -- the UN still demurred.
Mr. Akasaka's outgoing deputy Eric Falt responded with what he called the “final” version, to be put online the next day, which only in a footnote mentions that online media includes blogs and vlogs. The reference is marginalized in a footnote, and there is no reference to bloggers as such. Why not?
At a DPI event about Social Media held earlier this year in the UN's North Lawn building, chaired by Mr. Akasaka, UN staffers praised their own blogging and Tweeting of UN positions. Staff said they were paid to monitor Wikipedia to remove “inaccurate” information about UN officials.
Inner City Press asked, if someone posted for example that Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar was too close with regimes in Myanmar or Sri Lanka, would that be considered opinion or “inaccurate”? There was no answer -- presumably, the UN's social media team is directed to remove such free speech. And now, no reference to “bloggers.”
There is a larger context here. The UN has used the opportunity of its Capital Master Plan rehabilitiation to move the press corps from offices with walls, from which calls could be made and whistleblowers could visit, to a series of cubicles directly under the Department of Management.
Because of the previous and prospective MALU chief's statement that “the UN doesn't accredit bloggers,” this reporter pressed that the UNCA proposal(s) be stuck to, and that the word “blogger” be included. Inner City Press asked these questions:
UNCA's Executive Board has twice unanimous proposed that the word “blogger” be included in the Accreditation Guidelines. After UN DPI's initial response to merely refer to bloggers in a side email from the interim supervisor of MALU, the UNCA Board met for more than an hour and counter proposed compromise language, “including those who are bloggers.”
On July 27, the USG of DPI told me the bloggers would be in the guidelines.
But the text provided on July 29, with a less than one day deadline, does not include the word bloggers, but rather a footnote about “blogs or vlogs.”
Given that the previous and perhaps future supervisor of MALU has said “the UN does not accredit bloggers,” if that is not the position, why is the word “blogger” not included in the Guidelines? Please -- an answer.
But rather than an answer, a vote was called for. This reporter voted no. UNCA response reflected that the vote
“was not unanimous.. We interpret it to mean that the UN has officially recognized that blogger journalists that fulfill MALU’s criteria have the right to a UN accreditation and will not be discriminated against simply because they are bloggers.”
But will that “understanding” be in the guidelines? Unanswered is the question of whether UNCA's consent should have required a vote of the full membership, and the larger question: why is the UN so scared of independent bloggers?
The outgoing overseer of MALU, Eric Falt, is known to run morning meetings at 9:30 a.m. in the UN's “luggage building” at which messaging, and countering this publication by name, are discussed. It seems to some that this UN is comfortable with UN controlled bloggers, but not independent journalists.
Rather than keep the information up to date to help journalists to cover the UN, the focus has been on rushing a vote on a guidelines that's outdated even before it goes online. Only at the UN. Watch this site.
Footnote: the UN's footnote not mentioning "bloggers" but merely that "bona fide" online media includes blogs and vlogs -- with no definitely of "bona fide" (good faith) or any rationale for the UN to define such, is supposed to go onlinehere - what THAT site...
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Share now information about illegal dealings at United Nations
If you are in possession of UNDP or any other United Nations Agency' contracts, correspondence, financial records or databases, which you believe detail wrongdoing such as fraud, mismanagement and abuse of authority, and you have failed to have UN's internal control, oversight and justice systems respond and/or react to your claims, you can send them to UNDP-WATCH and we will make them public keeping your identity anonymous and confidential.
Send an email to: email@example.com
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UNDP Watch is a grouping of United Nations Staff committed to openness. We believe that everyone has the right to access information held by United Nations.
Despite a stated commitment to openness, UNDP remain a highly secretive agency.
Although a wealth of information is available on some UNDP websites, its Executive Board operate behind closed doors, much important programme and administrative information is never made available and, as a rule, information that is disclosed is provided only after relevant decisions have effectively been taken.
While UNDP has adopted “internal policies” on information disclosure, they in fact operate on precisely the opposite presumption. For the most part, they list which documents will be disclosed and when, and there is a presumption against the disclosure of all the other information they hold. They do not establish right of access, the lists of documents subject to disclosure is limited, they do not set out clear and narrow grounds for refusing access and they do not provide for independent oversight mechanisms to ensure proper implementation of the policy.
The UNDP WATCH is calling for the complete overhaul of these policies.
"...We believe that without accountability, there is impunity. We ask that you (Secretary General) not be complicit in cover-up of what happened prior to 11 Dec attack. The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the Secretary-General to senior managers for their failings especially in situations where it has led to death and disability."