The UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) refused yesterday to grant Taiwanese journalists media accreditation to cover the World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization's (WHO) highest governing body, and said it did so because Taiwan is not a state recognized by the UN General Assembly.
With the WHA slated to take place at the UN building in Geneva, the Palais des Nations, from May 16 to May 25, UNOG is in charge of media accreditation for the event.
On its Web site explaining the media accreditation process, UNOG said it required all journalists to present two forms of valid ID for photo identification.
"Valid ID must include a current passport from a State recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, along with a press card, work ID, driver's license or other form of photo ID," UNOG said.
The UN Department of Public Information (UNDPI), the office said, must be satisfied that the individual applying for accreditation is a bona fide media professional and represents a bona fide media organizations.
Bona fide media organizations, the office went on to explain, are those "formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly."
When contacted by this newspaper yesterday, a UNOG official said only journalists holding passports of UN member states or observers and working for media organizations in such countries or places will get accreditation.
Reporters failing either of the requirements will be refused accreditation, the official added, citing UN resolution 2758 to explain why Taiwanese reporters are denied access to WHA proceedings.
In a resolution adopted in 1971, entitled "Restoration of the lawful rights of the People's Republic of China in the United Nations," the General Assembly decided to "expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it."
Elena Ponomareva, chief of the press and external relations section at the UNOG, told this newspaper that the UN does not recognize Taiwan as a state and that Taiwanese passports are merely considered "local passports."
The WHO headquarters in Geneva had been in charge of media accreditation for coverage of the WHA till 2003. In 2003, Taiwanese journalists had no problem getting press passes to cover the assembly proceedings.
However, the UNOG took over media accreditation for coverage of the WHA event last year and waffled over whether to grant Taiwanese reporters press passes a few days before the assembly.
Last year, only two Taiwanese journalists, one holding a British passport and the other a US passport, obtained press passes from the UNOG to cover the WHA. Other Taiwanese reporters had to sit in the public gallery.
This year, by stating its terms of issuing press badges to reporters on its Web site, the UNOG has made it clear that Taiwanese journalists would not be accredited to cover the WHA.
According to the terms, all journalists working for Taiwanese media organizations will be barred from covering the WHA, no matter what passports they hold.
When asked whether the terms on the Web site were listed to prevent last year's hassles with Taiwanese reporters, a UNOG official said the office was simply trying to improve its Web site.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese diplomats in Geneva, France and New York are trying to persuade the UN to issue press badges to Taiwanese journalists working for private media organizations in Taiwan, according to government officials.
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