Turtle Bay

A victory for the U.N. press corps

The U.N. Security Council has agreed to restore some limited rights to U.N. reporters so they can roam the U.N. corridors with U.N. diplomats entering and exiting the council’s chambers, ending weeks of bitter protests by the press over restraints on their access. Japan, which is serving as this month’s Security Council president, reached agreement ...

The U.N. Security Council has agreed to restore some limited rights to U.N. reporters so they can roam the U.N. corridors with U.N. diplomats entering and exiting the council’s chambers, ending weeks of bitter protests by the press over restraints on their access.

Japan, which is serving as this month’s Security Council president, reached agreement on Friday with the U.N. Correspondent’s Association and the U.N. press office to allow journalists to accompany diplomats up a stairwell outside the new council chamber that leads to their limousines. The deal came several hours after the U.N. press club angrily rejected a policy outlined by Japan that generally restricted reporters’ movement to an enclosed press pen.

The initial press restrictions were imposed after the U.N. Security Council was transferred earlier this month from its landmark chambers to a suite of conference rooms and offices in the U.N. basement. They essentially prohibited reporters from approaching diplomats without a physical barrier between them. Most reporting outside the original Security Council chamber generally occurred informally in a shared space that allowed reporters to mingle with diplomats.

The U.N. press club is still finalizing its discussions with U.N. security over the likelihood that some of the restrictions lifted in the deal might be temporarily re-imposed in circumstances in which the appearance of world leaders or prominent foreign ministers requires additional security. But the group has agreed in principle with the plan.

The Security Council also reversed a decision that barred countries without membership in the 15-nation council from access to a lounge inside the Security Council suite. Russia and other council members had opposed their presence on the grounds that they might interfere with the U.N. Security Council president as he or she walked from the Security Council chamber to the office of the presidency. The issue was resolved by erecting a wall that allows the council president to slip passed the diplomatic throngs without being seen.

But the Security Council has not backed down from a decision to expel a spokesman for the U.N. secretary general from attending the body’s closed-door chambers, or to require top U.N. officials to reduce the number of staff it brings into confidential meetings. Council diplomats said that the U.N. had not made as forceful an argument for its lost privileges as the press and countries without membership on the council.

Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. @columlynch

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