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RSF keeps UNESCO consultative status, condemns defamatory attacks

(RSF/IFEX) - 13 March 2012 - Reporters Without Borders denies reports that it was “excluded” from UNESCO during this UN body's most recent executive council session for a supposed
“lack of ethics.” False reports to this effect have been circulated by certain media, especially in Latin America, without any attempt at verification.

“Our partnerships with UNESCO have been effective and productive,” Reporters Without Borders director-general Olivier Basille said. “Assistance with the installation of a mobile Internet centre for people displaced by the earthquake in Haiti and the continuing publication of the Handbook for Journalists for the past 20 years are some examples.

“The rumour that we have been 'excluded' from UNESCO is pure disinformation. There was never any question of this. We keenly regret that we were not promoted to the rank of 'associate NGO' because of the ill will that certain delegations have long felt towards us. We will continue to actively work with UNESCO on behalf of freedom of information.”

During UNESCO's most recent executive council session, held from 27 February to 10 March in Paris, certain countries blocked Reporters Without Borders' promotion to “associate NGO” status, a promotion that UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova had said she was recommending in a letter to us on 3 February (copy available). The status which Reporters Without Borders obtained with UNESCO in 1996 and which has been renewed twice, in 2002 and 2006, has never changed. Reporters Without Borders continues to enjoyed UNESCO's confidence, which was reiterated after the last session.

As part of an internal reform, UNESCO has changed the relations it can have with NGOs. Until now there were three kinds of relationship: “operational,” “associate” and “consultative.” Now there are just “associate” and “consultative.” It was against this backdrop that it was proposed that Reporters Without Borders' status should be changed from “consultative” to “associate.” During the last executive council meeting, a number of European and other western countries withdrew from the chamber in protest against Syria's presence among the delegations participating. As a result, when the question of Reporters Without Borders' status came to be discussed, Venezuela, with the support of China and Cuba, in particular, was able to easily block the promotion sought by Director-General Bokova.

More seriously, the false reports of our exclusion prompted the repetition of old defamatory attacks on Reporters Without Borders by the Cuban government news agency Prensa Latina. These accusations of “spying” and “activities on behalf of the US government” – whose violations of freedom of information we have often criticized – are typical of the usual paranoia of repressive regimes and their supporters.

Reporters Without Borders acknowledges that a former Reporters Without Borders secretary-general signed a cooperation agreement with a controversial humanitarian organization – the Center for a Free Cuba – which has its origins in the Cuban dissident movement in exile. This agreement was cancelled in 2008 when that secretary-general resigned.

Reporters Without Borders is capable of recognizing its mistakes and evolving, unlike its most fanatical detractors. Will they have the courage to retract their lies?

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