FAPA Canada Letter to UN Secretary-General
May 10, 2007
His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary-General Ban,
On behalf of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Canada, I wish to call Your Excellency’s
attention to the fact that the United Nations Office at Geneva has repeatedly infringed on Taiwanese
journalists’ press freedom. Inasmuch as freedom of the press is a universal value and right which the
United Nations is obligated to uphold, we request Your Excellency to use your good offices to ensure
that such infringement will no longer be tolerated in the UN System of Organizations.
Over the past three years, the UN Geneva Office has denied accreditation to journalists from Taiwan
to cover the 57th, 58th and 59th annual meetings of the World Health Assembly. In so doing, it has
violated their basic rights as individuals who are not representatives of any governmental authority,
as well as the right of Taiwan’s 23 million people to be informed. This is regrettable particularly in view
of the fact that WHA activities have an important bearing on the health and welfare of every person on
Earth, which takes precedence over politics.
Allow me to point out that denying Taiwanese journalists access to WHA events is in direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which stipulates, “Everyone has the right…to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Further, UDHR Article 2 emphasizes that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind... Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
Hence, the UN System of Organizations has absolutely no legitimate grounds to exclude any journalist by reason of his or her geographic origin.
Moreover, refusal to accredit Taiwanese journalists to cover the WHA proceedings runs counter to the spirit of “universal application” enunciated in Article 3 of the International Health Regulations: Effective prevention of the international spread of disease requires the public’s broadest possible access to and dissemination of health-related information.
Please also note that organizations dedicated to defending freedom of the press, including Reporters sans frontieres, the International Federation of Journalists, and the UN
Journalists Association, have voiced their unreserved support for Taiwanese journalists’ right to exercise that freedom.
As the WHA’s 60th annual meeting will soon convene in Geneva, we hope and trust that your Excellency will take steps to guarantee that UN personnel respect the rights of all journalists and not obstruct Taiwanese journalists’ coverage of WHA activities.
Harry Chen, Ph.D.
Formosan Association for Public Affairs
cc: Director-General Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze
United Nations Office at Geneva