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UN and WHO deny accreditation to Taiwan journalists; RSF condemns "appalling discrimination"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders voiced exasperation at the failure of the UN to resolve a dilemma under which Taiwanese journalists have again been refused accreditation to cover the World Health Assembly in Geneva simply because they are from Taiwan.

For the fourth consecutive year, the UN and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have rejected accreditation requests from five Taiwanese journalists wishing to cover the assembly which opens on 14 May 2007 in Geneva.

"The UN can hide behind their rules which ban accrediting a journalist from a country which is not recognised by the organisation," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "But in fact this situation panders to Beijing's hostility to any Taiwanese presence within international bodies."

"The UN therefore de facto gives priority to the national issue rather than to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of which guarantees press freedom and free circulation of information," it added.

In a fax sent to Reporters Without Borders in reply to its letter to Director General of the WHO, Margaret Chan, the organisation's communications department explained that the refusal came from the UN Department of Public Information. For space and logistical reasons, the assembly is being held at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Reporters Without Borders had urged Margaret Chan in its letter sent in April to find a solution that would allow Taiwanese journalists access to the discussions.

"How can the WHO ban Taiwanese journalists from covering the debates when the Assembly is going to be examining avian flu and pandemics?" Reporters Without Borders asked. "The Taiwanese, like all people in Chinese space, can fall victim to pandemics and have the right to be informed like anyone else", Secretary General Robert Ménard wrote to Margaret Chan, who is originally from Hong Kong.

For its part, the Association of Taiwan journalists has condemned the UN and WHO's refusal to accredit its members.

Before 2004, Taiwanese journalists were allowed to cover the World Health Assembly, but this right was withdrawn under pressure from Beijing. Taiwan is ranked 43rd out of 168 countries on the world press freedom index.

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