U.N. urged to examine accreditation policy

June 19, 2007

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Headquarters
New York, NY 10017

Via facsimile: +1 212 963-2155

Dear Mr. Secretary-General:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned about the United Nations’ refusal to accredit journalists from states not recognized by the U.N. General Assembly. In its rigid application of this policy, the organization excludes these journalists from entering any U.N. facility anywhere in the world and prevents them from performing their work. Journalists from Taiwan are particularly affected by this policy and were unfairly excluded from covering this year’s World Health Organization annual assembly on May 14, as they have been since 2004.

The U.N. media accreditation office, when questioned by CPJ, pointed to the U.N. Web site by way of explanation. The Web site describes the accreditation rules, which require a journalist have a current passport from a state recognized by the General Assembly. Thus, journalists from Taiwan are denied accreditation because the United Nations does not recognize Taiwan as a member.

The U.N. policy of accrediting only those journalists who hold passports from U.N. member nations appears to contravene two internationally recognized agreements. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its predecessor, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, underpin the broad concept of human rights and specifically mention the rights of journalists; they are part of the United Nations’ fundamental organizational ideals.

The second paragraph of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

As you know, the Covenant, which entered into force on March 23, 1976, is a U.N. treaty based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an advisory declaration adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the same ideals in much the same language as the Covenant: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The use of “everyone” in both statements is clearly meant to be universal, and does not allow for discrimination against citizens of countries that are not U.N. member nations. In excluding journalists from entering U.N. facilities anywhere in the world on the basis of the passport they hold, the United Nations is clearly interfering with the ability to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Even if their home country is not a member of the United Nations, journalists should be allowed equal access to U.N. facilities and officials. We ask that you change the policy that now denies journalists from Taiwan, and all other journalists who might fall into their category, the right to cover global events.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We await your reply.


Joel Simon
Executive Director