Sun, May 29, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Ban slams rejection of press freedom group

DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED:Diplomats said the UN’s decision to deny the group special status is indicative of a growing backlash against non-governmental organizations

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is deeply disappointed by a UN decision to deny the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) special status at the world body, his spokesman Farhan Haq said on Friday.

A UN committee on Thursday voted to reject the press freedom watchdog’s request for accreditation as a non-governmental organization, by a vote of 10 to six, with three abstentions.

Ban “believes they do valuable work” and is “deeply disappointed” by the decision, which would block the CPJ’s access to UN bodies, including the Geneva, Switzerland-based Human Rights Council, Haq said.

“Journalists already are facing undue restrictions on their work in many, many parts of the world and organizations that are dedicated to protecting journalists shouldn’t face restrictions at the United Nations,” he added.

Russia, China, Sudan and South Africa were among the 10 countries that voted against the request for the group to be granted special consultative status at the world body.

The US, which voted in favor, said it would bring the group’s request in July to the full 54-member Economic and Social Council to try to override the decision.

In a reversal, South Africa on Friday said it supported the CPJ’s request and would vote in favor when it comes up for a vote in the UN’s Economic and Social Council.

“We regret the misunderstanding and the wrong message that the lack of explanation of our vote in the NGO [non-governmental organization] Committee could have portrayed,” a statement from the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.

Pretoria praised the CPJ for its “outstanding and sterling work” and said it supports “the role that journalists play in democracy and free societies.”

Azerbaijan, Burundi, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Venezuela also opposed the request from the CPJ, which has taken up the plight of journalists jailed worldwide for their reporting.

Diplomats said the vote is indicative of a growing backlash against NGOs at the UN, in particular those who defend reproductive rights and are vocal on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and freedom of expression.

Earlier this month, at least 20 NGOs, most of whom are active on gay rights, were barred from taking part in a major AIDS conference to take place next month after 51 Muslim countries, Russia and African nations protested.

UN Special Rapporteur on Assembly and Association Maina Kiai said the same governments that are restricting civil society at home are now targeting the UN.

“They are doing this by hijacking, and subsequently closing, the main door used by civil society to enter the United Nations system — the Committee on NGOs,” Kiai said.

French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said the vote was “deeply disappointing and disturbing” and could only be understood as a reprisal against the CPJ.

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