United Nations Refuses Press Freedom on World Press Freedom Day

The UN refused US fliers on World Press Freedom Day not because they were inaccurate but because they were too honest and Egypt might feel bad about them.

In her column this week Bridget Johnson in the LA Daily News explains how the UN censored free speech on Press Freedom Day

I was asked to moderate a panel on the U.N. trip to bring attention to these very issues. Hosted by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations last Thursday, the panel included Jeffrey Krilla (deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department), Watson Meng (founder of China’s Boxun News), Frank Xie (Boxun blogger), Egyptian blogger Nora Younis and Tala Dowlatshahi from Reporters Without Borders. Live blogging captured the presentation of various views on how to protect bloggers’ free speech around the globe.

Interestingly, the event itself faced censorship. Fliers advertising the panel featured a woman with duct tape over her mouth sitting at a laptop computer, on which was superimposed a news brief about the imprisonment of blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman – datelined, of course, Egypt.

Carolyn Vadino, deputy spokeswoman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said that the ambassador’s office was asked by U.N. officials to remove the Egypt dateline from the image if they wanted the fliers approved for posting. So after the U.S. refused to censor the flier, U.N. officials responded they could only approve fliers for “cultural events.”

The purported reason for the initial denial was that a member state was supposedly singled out. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and throws young bloggers in prison for dissing Hosni Mubarak, though, one wonders how the usage of the country’s name could be deemed unfair.

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