Friday, May 27, 2016

U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request

U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request
May 26, 2016
By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press
freedom watchdog group, was denied consultative status at the United
Nations on Thursday, with South Africa, Russia and China among the
countries that opposed it.

The United States quickly denounced the decision and vowed to try to
overturn it.

New York-based CPJ reports on violations of press freedom in countries
and conflict zones around the world, reporting and mobilizing action on
behalf of journalists who have been targeted. A U.N. panel rejected its
application for status that would have given it access to U.N.
headquarters and allowed it to participate in U.N. events.

The 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations has for
years delayed action on the group's application for accreditation. CPJ
Executive Director Joel Simon described the NGO committee process as

"A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using
bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that
call their own abusive policies into high relief," he said in a statement.

The NGO committee rejected CPJ's application with 10 votes against, six
in favor and three abstentions.

Normally the committee decides by consensus. But a senior U.S. diplomat
requested a vote after South Africa and other committee members kept
posing questions that the United States and others denounced as a
delaying tactic.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Washington
would seek to overturn the NGO committee's "outrageous" decision by
calling for a vote in the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council.

"We are extremely disappointed by today's vote," she told reporters. "It
is increasingly extremely clear that the NGO committee acts more and
more like an anti-NGO committee."

Western diplomats said the U.N. NGO committee has become increasingly
unfriendly to organizations supporting Western notions of human rights,
noting that gay rights NGOs and other groups have had trouble securing

The NGO committee's current members are Azerbaijan, Burundi, China,
Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua,
Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States, Uruguay
and Venezuela.

Western diplomats said they were especially disappointed by South
Africa, whose delegation criticized CPJ for, among other things, not
supporting punishment for speech that incites hatred. The CPJ has noted
that there is no internationally agreed definition of the term "hate

A Russian delegate said he had "serious doubts about whether this
organization really is a non-governmental organization."

China, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sudan were also among those that voted
against CPJ's accreditation.

Azerbaijan, Iran, China, and Cuba are on the CPJ's list of the 10
most-censored countries. It says on its website that the legacy of
Nelson Mandela's drive for press freedom in South Africa has faded.

On Russia it says: "Russia has a poor record of impunity in the cases of
murdered journalists, which increases intimidation and acts of violence
against the press."

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)

Source: U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request

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