IFJ Condemns UN ‘Blunder’ That Keeps Freelancers out of World Summit on Information

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the restrictive conditions for accreditation imposed on freelancers aiming to report on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The IFJ criticized a “bureaucratic blunder” that threatens to keep independent and freelance correspondents from reporting next month’s summit discussions.


Freelance journalists not attached to a particular news outlet are being barred from the summit, says the IFJ, because summit organizers insist that all journalists have to prove that they are on assignment from a specific news organization.


“It is bizarre that this rule has been introduced, “ said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It appears to be an attempt to exclude bona fide journalists just because they have no confirmed commission.”


Earlier this year, on 25 July, the IFJ voiced its concerns over the lack of consideration given to the freedom of expression in the Summit discussions. Recent Summit preparations have indicated the reluctance of some UN national delegations to consider media as key stakeholders in the summit process. The accreditation process for journalists clearly indicates that the role of the media, and in particular, of freelancers, is not fully taken into account.


“In the context of global discussions, the role of the media must be supported and journalists encouraged to cover the event,” said White. “It is extraordinary that in these days of new technology and changing media, part of the UN appears not to understand what journalism is all about.”


The media accreditation conditions indicate that journalists must provide application forms “together with a letter of assignment on official letterhead from their Editor or Bureau Chief”, although the production of a press card itself is not even required.


Unless a freelancer will be reporting on the World Summit on behalf of a specific media, this rule will not allow freelancers working for a more general purpose to access the World Summit’s discussions. “This process is another form of censorship,” said White. “Freelancers who show a regular press card should undeniably be allowed in the Summit discussions. Public information and adequate coverage of the Summit are essential, particularly at a time where summit negotiations have been suffering from a lack of transparency”.


The IFJ says many journalists who are freelance – the world’s fastest growing sector of journalism – cover events like the WSIS speculating on the possibility of articles or material to be sold during or after the event.


The World Summit on the Information society - which will take place on 10-12 December 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland - will bring together more than 10,000 participants from all around the world, including heads of states, civil society representatives, business entities and media professionals.


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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries