Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dangerously Secure Security Council

Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted to increase the levels of secrecy it operates under.  Some diplomats and press corporations argue that this is the greatest setback to UN transparency for decades.

The main issue is the significant reduction of press access to Security Council members. This trend stems from the moving of the Council chamber to the basement of the UN and changing security regulations.  The new Council location impedes press access to diplomats as they leave deliberations; something that was available at the previous location.  Also, council members can now leave the Security Council chamber and depart the UN building without passing the press.  French Ambassador, Gerard Araud, seemed particularly happy about this.  

In addition to press restrictions, measures voted in by the Council’s fifteen members include: banning the Secretary General’s note-taker from attending meetings, reducing the number of experts allowed in Security Council consultations and barring non-council diplomats from the inner-sanctums of decision making.

The decision to drastically reduce UNSC transparency grows from certain council members’ fears that information, from closed-door meetings, is being leaked to the press.  However, as the ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ argues, how can the UN push a free-press agenda in its programs across the world whilst eroding it at headquarters.  Media coverage provides a vital role in monitoring and informing the work of the Council.

The President of the Security Council for April, Yukio Akasu of Japan, asserts that media access is not being eroded and he will work to have previous privileges reinstated.  However, UN Press members seem less than impressed.  The President of the UN press club, Giampaolo Pioli, stated that the restrictions were “unjustifiable” and represented “an unacceptable curtailing of the ability of reporters.”

** More on this story can be found here

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