Committee to Protect Journalists wins UN accreditation

The New York-based independent, nonprofit organization works to defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal

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The United Nations granted accreditation to the Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday, overturning a committee's rejection and giving the group the right to promote press freedom at the Human Rights Council and other U.N. bodies.

The 54-member Economic and Social Council approved CPJ's application for consultative status — first made in 2012 — by a vote of 40-5 with 6 abstentions. Russia, China, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Rwanda opposed the resolution and three countries didn't vote.

The 19-member committee that deals with non-governmental organizations deferred action on CPJ's application seven times before it voted 6-10 with three abstentions on May 26 to reject it.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power called the NGO committee's action "outrageous," and the United States decided to launch what turned out to be a successful campaign to reverse the committee's vote in ECOSOC, its parent body.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said Monday's vote recognizes the organization's important role in providing "expert knowledge and analysis on press freedom related issues."

"While we are grateful that the vote finally grants CPJ accreditation," he said in a statement, "we remain disheartened at the politicized process for gaining accreditation and hope that the fact that our application took so long and was so contentious is a wake-up call for the bodies that ensure NGOs are able to access the United Nations."

The New York-based independent, nonprofit organization works to defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. With about 40 experts around the world, CPJ reports on violations in repressive countries, conflict zones, and democracies, and lobbies for the freedom of imprisoned journalists and prosecution of those who attack and kill members of the media.

Power noted that during the four years that CPJ was denied accreditation the NGO committee issued 1,600 deferrals, many to the same organizations again and again. During the same period, she said 863 journalists been imprisoned, 19 have gone missing, and 304 have been killed, quoting CPJ figures.

"The committee designed to support NGO participation at the U.N. has become a tool for keeping respected NGOs out of the U.N.," Power said. "The NGO committee looks more and more like an anti-NGO committee. ... It is past time that we find a way to get the committee to stop obstructing."

ECOSOC also voted to approve consultative status for the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, an international organization based in Ottawa led by young people aged 18-29 which first applied for accreditation in 2010 and was deferred 11 times. The vote was much closer than CPJ's — 26-7 with 13 abstentions and 8 countries not voting.

Russia and China were among opponents of accreditation for the coalition as well, using the same argument they did for CPJ — that the NGO committee closely examines all applicants and its actions should not be politicized and overturned.

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