U.N. chief 'deeply disappointed' by rejection of press watchdog

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is disappointed by a U.N. panel’s rejection of an application from the Committee to Protect Journalists for U.N. accreditation, Ban’s spokesman said on Friday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrives for the closing news conference during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

New York-based CPJ reports on violations of media freedom in countries and conflict zones around the world, reporting and mobilizing action on behalf of journalists who have been targeted.

The 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on Thursday rejected CPJ’s application for consultative status that would have given it access to U.N. headquarters and allowed it to participate in U.N. events.

“He’s deeply disappointed by this recent decision,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said, adding that Ban believed the group does valuable work around the globe.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon described the NGO committee process as “Kafkaesque.”

“A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that call their own abusive policies into high relief,” he said in a statement.

Normally the NGO committee decides by consensus. But a senior U.S. diplomat requested a vote after South Africa and other committee members kept posing questions of CPJ that the United States and others denounced as a delaying tactic.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said Washington would seek to overturn the NGO committee’s “outrageous” decision by calling for a vote in the full 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Western diplomats said the U.N. NGO committee has become increasingly unfriendly to organizations supporting Western notions of human rights, noting that gay rights NGOs and other groups have had trouble securing accreditation.

The Western diplomats also said they were especially disappointed by South Africa for opposing CPJ’s application. However, the South African government issued a statement on Friday that reversed its position on CPJ by vowing to support its application when it comes to a vote in ECOSOC.

The NGO committee’s current members are Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Azerbaijan, Iran, China, and Cuba are on the CPJ’s list of the 10 most-censored countries.

The group says on its website that the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s drive for press freedom in South Africa has faded and has repeatedly criticized Russia for an atmosphere of impunity regarding violence against journalists.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bill Trott