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.
“A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that call their own abusive policies into high relief,” he said in a statement.
The NGO committee rejected CPJ’s application with 10 votes against, six in favour and three abstentions.
Normally the committee decides by consensus. But a senior U.S. diplomat requested a vote after South Africa and other committee members kept posing questions that the United States and others denounced as a delaying tactic.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Washington would seek to overturn the NGO committee‘s “outrageous” decision by calling for a vote in the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council.
“We are extremely disappointed by today’s vote,” she told reporters. “It is increasingly extremely clear that the NGO committee acts more and more like an anti-NGO committee.”
Western diplomats said the U.N. NGO committee has become increasingly unfriendly to organizations supporting Western notions of human rights, noting that gay rights NGOs and other groups have had trouble securing accreditation.
The NGO committee’s current members are Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Western diplomats said they were especially disappointed by South Africa, whose delegation criticized CPJ for, among other things, not supporting punishment for speech that incites hatred. The CPJ has noted that there is no internationally agreed definition of the term “hate speech.”
A Russian delegate said he had “serious doubts about whether this organization really is a non-governmental organization.”
China, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sudan were also among those that voted against CPJ’s accreditation.
Azerbaijan, Iran, China, and Cuba are on the CPJ’s list of the 10 most-censored countries. It says on its website that the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s drive for press freedom in South Africa has faded.
On Russia it says: “Russia has a poor record of impunity in the cases of murdered journalists, which increases intimidation and acts of violence against the press.”