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Access All Areas At The UN? Not Any More

The Security Council "stakeout." How it was before.
The Security Council "stakeout." How it was before.
Starting this week reporters covering the activities of the United Nations Security Council are facing an unwelcome change -- restricted or no access to the council diplomats.

As the landmark UN Secretariat building is undergoing an extensive renovation, the executive organs it is hosting are being relocated to different parts of the UN complex on the east side of Manhattan.

The Security Council chambers and consultation rooms have now been relocated from the spacious quarters on the second floor to a basement area with no natural lighting.

The major change is that now reporters covering the council’s work will have to wait behind a metal door with a sign “Security Council members only.”

Life was different on the second floor in the Secretariat where reporters and diplomats could mingle without objections from the security detail and, depending on the mood and political currents, exchange valuable bits of information.

Reporters were also able to monitor who and when enters and exits the council chambers. No more.

Restrictions, it appears, affect not only the journalists but also UN member states who are not Security Council members. There are 192 UN member states but only 15 of those are Security Council members, five of them -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- permanent.

The new Security Council stakeout -- the place where diplomats make statements and respond to press inquiries -- is now positioned far from the Security Council chambers. Diplomats who wish to slip away unnoticed may now do so through the basement parking lot or through a staircase. Previously they had no other way but to walk by the stakeout to exit the area.

There are rumors that the new media arrangements are the result of some council members' displeasure at the necessity to interact with reporters and face questions that (they think) they shouldn't.

But in an attempt to allay fears, at a briefing on April 5, the current president of the council, Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan, said that media access at the council’s new location shouldn't be too different to how it was.

-- Nikola Krastev

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