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UN and other organisations “failing” on freedom of information, UN expert finds

NEW YORK (24 October) - The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression has criticized the UN and other international organizations for failing to adopt “robust” policies on access to information.

“The UN and many international organizations lack the kind of freedom of information policies that are increasingly the norm among governments,” David Kaye said before presenting a new report to the UN General Assembly.

“The result is that we have limited insight into how international organizations make decisions, what influences those outcomes, and whether they follow the rules.

“The lack of access to information undermines accountability and the public’s ability to participate in global affairs.”

He added: “Several international organizations have adopted access to information policies, some of them effective and relatively transparent. This is the case in specific areas of environmental policy, financial institutions and development.

“But beyond that, access policies, where they exist, often provide too much discretion for organizations to deny requests, often without clear reasons.”

The Special Rapporteur said access to information required strong protection for whistleblowers, and he was pleased by early steps to improve the UN’s own policy in this area.

But he added: “There remains real room for improvement, especially in the need for disciplinary sanctions when officials retaliate against whistleblowers and for greater institutional commitment to promoting whistleblowing and the protection of the people involved,” Mr. Kaye said.

“Particularly in an era of misinformation and propaganda, I urge the UN and other international organizations, as well as States and civil society, to take up the cause of freedom of information.

“Too much doubt and distrust, for good reason, have infected governments worldwide, and one key remedy may be found in the kind of transparency and accountability that freedom of information can provide,” he said.

ENDS

Mr. David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact:
In New York: Ms. Marina Narvaez Guarnieri (mguarnieri@ohchr.org),
In Geneva: Ms. Azin Tadjdini (atadjdini@ohchr.org/ +41 22 917 9400).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Bryan Wilson – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org

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