My name is Drew Johnson. I am a reporter at The Daily Caller and a senior scholar at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance in Washington, DC.
I am writing to invite you to sign on to a very important coalition letter encouraging the United Nations to protect press freedom.
All too often in recent years, the UN has taken troubling steps to chill freedom of the press and silence journalists attempting to cover UN events. I know firsthand. I was part of a group of journalists physically removed from an open meeting held by the UN’s public health arm, the World Health Organization.
More examples of the UN’s disregard for freedom of the press are included in the letter, which is included below.
On May 3, the UN will host World Press Freedom Day. The event is intended to encourage UN member nations to uphold the principles of press freedom. The coalition letter asks the UN to behave with the same transparency, accountability, and openness towards the press that it expects from its member states.
As a respected member of the media, I hope you will join me and scores of other journalists from dozens of countries in calling on the UN to respect press freedom.
A Coalition Letter Demanding That the United Nations
Stop Silencing the Media and Stifling Press Freedom
Dear Members of the United Nations General Assembly,
Tuesday, May 3, marks World Press Freedom Day. On behalf of the undersigned we call upon the United Nations to celebrate the occasion by upholding the principles of press freedom and free speech.
Respect for free and unimpeded journalism is a cornerstone for open and dynamic societies. Unfortunately, despite organizing World Press Freedom Day, the UN has proven disturbingly hypocritical on the issue, frequently engaging in extraordinary measures to silence the media and stifle press freedom.
For example, in September 2014, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous prevented reporters from filming a public Q&A session in Sudan by obstructing cameras with file folders. When that proved ineffective, he cancelled the briefing altogether. Instead of challenging this abuse of press freedom, UN officials later attempted to coerce a number of websites to remove videos taken at the aborted conference.
A few weeks later, during the height of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the UN was caught blacklisting a reporter who criticized the response of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the crisis. The UN blocked the journalist from receiving email updates about the WHO’s Ebola efforts and refused to respond to questions and interview requests.
Also in 2014, at a tobacco control meeting in Moscow hosted by the WHO, media were banned from reporting on the proceedings and physically removed from the meeting without explanation. Moments after expelling journalists from the events, the conventions’ delegates secretly passed the world’s first global tax.
Additionally, the WHO regularly awards prestigious meetings and conferences to countries with little or no regard for freedom of the press.
In just the past nine months, the WHO held two meetings in Turkmenistan, a country Reporters Without Borders ranked as the third worst in the world for respecting press freedom. The UN rewarded the country with high-profile conferences even though journalism in Turkmenistan “can only be practiced clandestinely and when independent journalists are identified, they are liable to be jailed and tortured.”
These and numerous other attacks on the media by the UN and its agencies paint a disturbing portrait of the organization. The UN recurrently behaves in a manner towards the media it would never tolerate from its member nations.
This World Press Freedom Day, journalists from across the globe call on the UN to stop its hypocritical conduct and live up to the principles of press freedom every day of the year, not just on the 3rd of May.
We encourage UN member nations to demand the organization to operate in an open, transparent manner that reflects a commitment to the principles of press freedom.