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Ban disappointed by UN decision to bar press freedom watchdog

May 27, 2016

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is deeply disappointed by a UN decision to deny the Committee to Protect Journalists special status as a non-governmental organization at the world body, his spokesman said Friday.

A UN committee voted on Thursday to reject the press freedom watchdog’s request for accreditation, by a vote of 10 to 6, 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-based Human Rights Council, said spokesman Farhan Haq.

“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 CPJ to be granted special consultative status at the world body.

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

South Africa on Friday changed its position and said it would vote in favor of the request when it comes up for a vote in ECOSOC.

“We regret the misunderstanding and the wrong message that the lack of explanation of our vote in the NGO Committee could have portrayed,” said a statement from South Africa’s international relations department.

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 had taken up the plight of journalists jailed worldwide for their reporting.

Diplomats said the vote was indicative of a growing backlash against NGOs at the United Nations, in particular those who defend reproductive rights and are vocal on LGBT 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 in June after 51 Muslim countries, Russia and African nations protested.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.