UN: UN rights office reacts to denial of observer status for CPJ

New York, US (PANA) - The UN human rights office on Tuesday expressed concern over a decision last week by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to deny the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) consultative status.

UN human rights spokesperson, Rupert Colville, who briefed UN reporters via video-conference from Geneva, Switzerland, said: "We believe the decision not to allow this well-established NGO to take part in UN meetings, including those of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, is unwise, unfair and arbitrary."

He said that "the action also flies in the face of other initiatives by UN member states to offer better protection to journalists worldwide."

Mr. Colville noted that "CPJ is a key and respected voice on the issues of protecting journalists and press freedom", saying that "the statistics which it provides on killings, attacks and imprisonment of journalists around the world are widely viewed as among the most reliable in existence."

He said that, in effect, the votes of just 10 member states have meant that CPJ's "voice and important research" continues to be excluded from all relevant UN debates and processes.

PANA in New York recalled that, of the 19 member states that make up the UN NGO Committee, six voted in favour of giving CPJ consultative status, and three abstained.

"The vote came after CPJ's application, first made in 2012, had already been deferred seven times by the NGO Committee," Mr. Colville said.

The spokesperson said UN High Commissioner Zeid Al Hussein, in a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 20 June, highlighted on the deferral of a large number of NGO applications for consultative status, sometimes for years on end.

He also noted that the development had deprived international debate of important civil society contributions.

He said the human rights office also has strong concerns about the recent refusal of permission by UN member states for 11 civil society organizations representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) people and other marginalized communities to attend the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS taking place from 8 to 10 June at the UN headquarters in New York.

Mr. Colville noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had also reacted to the subject on Monday in South Korea, lamenting that "freedom is under threat, including at the last place this should happen, at the United Nations."

"The UN High Commissioner fully shares the UN chief's concern, as we see more and more evidence of more and more member states clamping down on the freedoms of expression association and assembly, with the media and human rights defenders in the frontline," the spokesperson stressed.

He added: "While this may be in the interests of authorities wishing to crush criticism and retain power, it is clearly not in the interest of their populations. This unfortunate episode involving CPJ is emblematic of this unfortunate and very negative trend."

CPJ, an independent NGO that promotes press freedom worldwide, is headquartered in New York City and is made up of about 40 experts from around the world.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 31May2016

31 may 2016 14:42:55

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