By Matthew Russell Lee
The author is senior reporter at Inner City Press, which focuses on the UN, where this article first appeared. It references a recently started organization, the Free United Nations Coalition for Access (FUNCA).
UNITED NATIONS, September 15 — The UN’s lack of accountability, from bringing cholera to Haiti to using as “peacekeepers” armies under investigation for war crimes like those of the DR Congo and Sri Lanka, is enabled by the lack of even a basic Freedom of Information Act covering the UN.
Inner City Press, which has litigated FOIA cases all the way to the US Supreme Court and submitted FOI request to dozens of countries, has long pushed for a UN Freedom of Information Act.
As reported on September 15 by the Columbia Journalism Review, “Inner City Press… reported that Burnham’s successor, Alicia Barcena, said it would be in place by the end of 2007.
But the General Assembly never agreed on the scheme, and it was quietly shelved.
“There were differing views among Member States about what constituted openness,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in an email.”
What leadership — citing “differing views,” the UN Secretariat gave up before it even began.
CJR also quotes a rights group which won’t disclose what issues it raises to Ban, and correspondents happy to get leaks and text from their Western sources.
This same organization, beyond its Executive Committee trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, withheld its Q&A with Ban Ki-moon even from its own members, here.
In order to pursue more access to information — and the protection of the rights of investigative journalists against such insider approaches — Inner City Press co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access. FUNCA says it is absurd for the UN Secretariat to blame member states for its own refusal to be transparent with its own financial information.
Furthermore, how can Ban’s UN make claims about “we the peoples” while blaming unnamed governments for banning accountability to the peoples?
CJR concluded, as we will for now, with this: “Inner City Press continues to advocate for a systematic freedom of information policy, but admits that there is little binding pressure journalists can put on the UN legally. ‘Ultimately you end up making a moral argument, which is that more so than most governments, the UN is always pontificating about good governance and transparency,’ he said. ‘That’s what I find so ironic.’”
Ironic is a diplomatic way to put it. Watch this site — and this (FUNCA) one.
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