A request by the Committee to Protect Journalists to be recognized as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations was rejected Thursday after 10 countries opposed it, including Russia and China.
The vote at the UN NGO committee capped a four-year application by the US-based press freedom watchdog for the special status that provides access to UN premises and gives civil society a voice in UN affairs.
Azerbaijan, Burundi, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan and Venezuela also opposed the request. Six countries voted in favor and three abstained.
CPJ executive director Joel Simon said it was “sad” that the United Nations upholds press freedom in its resolutions but denies accreditation for special status to an NGO that can help inform decisions on that issue.
“A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that call their own abusive policies into high relief,” said Simon.
CPJ defends the rights of journalists worldwide to report without fear of reprisals.
Greece, Guinea, Israel, Mauritania, the United States and Uruguay voted in favor of the CPJ’s request. India, Iran and Turkey abstained.
The United States said it would bring the CPJ’s request in July to the full 54-member Economic and Social Council that oversees the NGO committee to try to override the decision.
The United States is “extremely disappointed” by the vote, US Ambassador Samantha Power said.
“It is increasingly clear that the NGO committee acts more and more like an anti-NGO committee,” she told reporters.
— Brett Solomon (@solomonbrett) May 26, 2016
Diplomats said the vote was indicative of a growing backlash against NGOs at the United Nations, in particular those who defend reproductive rights and are vocal on LGBT issues and freedom of expression.
Many expressed surprise at South Africa’s push to keep NGOs out of the United Nations.
Pretoria has objected to 107 applications from NGOs for the special status, compared to 51 by China, according to a western diplomat.
— kerrykpaterson (@kerrykpaterson) May 26, 2016
Earlier this month, at least 20 NGOs, most of whom are active on gay rights, were barred from taking part in a major AIDS conference in June after 51 Muslim countries, Russia and African nations protested.