Media criticises Clark for lack of openess

October 20th, 2009 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

There was a fascinating radio interview at 7.40 am on National Radio today. It was from a specialist newspaper that reports on the UN, and complaining about the refusal of Helen Clark to do press conferences, how Clark and Heather Simpson try to handpick journalists for interviews and a general lack of accountability.

You can listen to the interview here.

It sounds like the UN media is less compliant than some of the NZ media has been. Some extracts from the interview with Matthew Lee the founder and editor of the Inner City Press that focuses on the UN:

In the six months she has been in office there have been a number of UNDP issues that have arisen and repeatedly, I would say half a dozen times, myself and other journalist have asked that she comes and do a press conference, an actual Q&A and take questions and it is yet to happen.

He points out she is the third most senior official at the UN, and not a single press conference in six months.

It has become somewhat striking, a total failure to answer questions about the agency as they arise. … Once requests were made for Helen Clark to do a press conference there were a flurry of calls from her two spokespeople at the UNDP to specific media outlets saying do you want a one on one. One of them responded and said Okay here’s the journalist who will do it. But UNDP responded No No we prefer this other journalist who works for you. That’s a degree of micro-management of press coverage that is almost unheard of in the UN.

But very familiar to people back in New Zealand. And many in the media went along with it, or they risked losing access.

If she is the third highest official in the UN, she needs to come and take questions because everyone else does. The Secretary-General does it on a monthly basis, the head of peacekeeping every two weeks.

Almost funny that Helen’s managed to actually lower the standards at the UN!

He also goes on to say how the only briefing anyone in the UNDP has given for some months has been about relief efforts in Samoa and Tonga.

Geoff Robinson: Are you the only journalist, is yours the only organisation raising this as an issue?

Lee: No, No … In July an issue arose about a hiring, a kind of nepotism hiring took place in UNDP. Inner City Press had the exclusive but after that it was covered by the Times of London, Reuters and even newspapers in Italy. All four of these publications wanted answers from UNDP and none of them got them. I sent e-mails to her long time staffer, Heather Simpson, to make sure we got her answer as to why this nepotism scandal was not a problem. There was never any response at all.

Heather’s job is to block media, not facilitate them!

But here is what is really interesting. All the media listen to Morning Report. Yet this quite stunning and significant interview has not been reported anywhere else at all!

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