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Ban disappointed by UN rejection of press freedom watchdog

May 27, 2016

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

A UN committee voted on Thursday to reject the press freedom watchdog’s request for accreditation as a non-governmental organization, 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.

In a reversal, South Africa on Friday said it supported CPJ’s request and would vote in favor 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 has taken up the plight of journalists jailed worldwide for their reporting.

– Targeting NGOs –

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.

The UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai of Kenya, said the same governments that are restricting civil society at home are now targeting the United Nations.

“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,” said Kiai.

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

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