July 5, 2012 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today asked the United Nations to disclose its procedures for reviewing the accreditation status of journalists who report on the international body.
The NYCLU made its request in a letter to the U.N.’s Department of Public Information after learning that Voice of America, a broadcast operation run by the U.S. government, has asked the U.N. to review its accreditation of journalist Matthew Russell Lee, who covers U.N.-related issues for Inner City Press. The NYCLU takes no position on the merits of Voice of America’s complaints against Mr. Lee, but the issue raises questions concerning how the U.N. determines the accreditation status of journalists and whether those procedures are fair.
"Press access to the United Nations is vital to ensuring that the public is informed on issues of global importance," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "We want to ensure that the U.N.’s procedures for granting or withholding press access are fair and that journalists are not denied access arbitrarily or due to the content of their reporting."
In its letter, the NYCLU maintains that when disputes arise that could result in the loss of a journalist’s press privileges, it is important that the journalist receive notice of the factual reasons for the review of his or her accreditation status, an opportunity to rebut those reasons, and a written decision containing the reasons for the ultimate determination. It asserts that these steps represent the minimum procedural safeguards for protecting freedom of expression.