Minutes of the ACANU General Assembly, Mar. 7, 2016

Minutes of the ACANU General Assembly, March 7, 2016

ACANU president Nick Cumming-Bruce started the General Assembly at 9:28 am, after the turnout surpassed the quorum. A total of 27 members were eventually in attendance and four members exercised their right to vote by proxy.

Nick thanked the members of the outgoing committee for their work since the February 2015 election, before going on to deliver his annual report to members. He presented a summary of the association’s activities, noting that ACANU had held several press breakfasts, including with the Universal Rights Group think tank, which brought together correspondents with ambassadors to the Human Rights Council.

Highlights of ACANU’s meetings with the press, meanwhile, included briefings with heads of agencies including WHO’s Margaret Chan, the WTO’s chief Roberto Azevedo, OHCHR’s Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, ITC’s Arancha Gonzalez and IPCC’s Hoesung Lee In addition, the final nominees for the Martin Ennals Award were announced at an ACANU meeting with the press.

Nick also noted that ACANU worked hard during his term to promote and protect the interests of its members and to facilitate access to meetings or events organized by the UN or missions. His first act as president was a letter to the head of the State Department public affairs office protesting the treatment of Geneva-based journalists by her team accompanying Secretary of State Kerry to the P5+1 Iran nuclear talks in Montreux in March 2015. In a similar vein, almost the last act of the committee was the letter of protest drafted by Frederic Durand to Staffan de Mistura taking issue with his highly discriminatory and inconsistent treatment of the media and a robust email from himself to Ahmad Fawzi as the incoming head of communications for the Special Envoy on the same subject.

He also noted that ACANU has engaged with Michael Moller and more regularly with Ahmad Fawzi, Rheal LeBlanc and Michele Zaccheo on a wide range of issues from the UNOG DG’s ‘speed dating’ initiative to access for cameras and reporters to events such as the Syria peace talks and more generally on the role of UNTV and UN photographers. The committee also engaged with UNIS on access of Geneva-based journalists to the UN in New York and on nagging irritations that arise periodically with UN security or over access to, and seating in, the Human Rights Council. Nick said he also tried to introduce a rather more equitable distribution of press room desks among journalists who work there on a regular basis.

Treasurer Brij Khindaria then delivered his report. He said ACANU ended the 2015 financial year with a small deficit of CHF148, due to reimbursements for parking lot keys that were returned by members. He noted that ACANU now has 117 members.

The auditor, Kanaga Raja Ganesan, then delivered his report and verified the ACANU accounts.

The three reports were adopted formally by the assembly.

When the meeting was opened up for comments from members, there were remarks about feedback to the letter regarding Staffan de Mistura’s treatment of media. The US mission did react and is quite sensitized to ACANU’s concerns, Nick said, and UNIS is aware as well of the association’s position. These are issues that will confront the incoming ACANU committee in the coming year, Nick said.

Another member suggested that meetings, perhaps bimonthly, be set up with Ahmad, Rheal and Michaele. This is something the next committee should consider, Nick said. It was also suggested that ACANU should be more proactive in publicizing itself to draw in new members and to explain the role of ACANU. Nick agreed that the next committee could put more information on the notice board to alert people about what the association is doing.

Another member proposed that ACANU consider giving more publicity to non-ACANU events and meetings that are organized by other UN agencies. Jennifer said she would be sure to forward all notices about “side events” to members, and will do the same when press releases about other meetings and events are sent to the ACANU secretary e-mail address. The ACANU committee might also consider getting ahold of NGOs to encourage them to send their invitations about side events to the ACANU secretary.

Brij was asked what ACANU might be able to do if we had more money, and he said we could consider getting more newspapers or setting up a computer room (this plan is already under way) for freelancers and others to make Skype calls. ACANU has proposed that and UNIS has accepted this in principle, and the next committee will follow up on this. It was an issue of money for UNIS, but now with the new year, they should have finances to do this.

Members complained that the morning briefing is sometimes cut off because press conferences are scheduled immediately after the briefing, leaving questions unasked. They asked for these press conferences to be held an hour after the briefings. ACANU has already tried to persuade the agencies not to hold their press conferences right after the briefings and has also said it’s not good to have a special guest during the briefings., but Nick said there had been discussion with UNIS about the possibility of a meeting with UN spokespersons to reviewthey don’t seem to listen their interaction with the media, an idea the new committee might consider pursuing.

The assembly then moved on to elect the new committee.

Frédéric Durand listed the names of candidates and vote results on overhead screens connected to his laptop.

Jan Herbermann was nominated by Nick Cumming-Bruce as president and this was seconded. There were no other candidates. Jan was elected with 31 votes (including four proxy votes)

Catherine Fiankan-Bokonga was nominated by Nina Larson as vice-president and this was seconded. There were no other candidates. Catherine was elected with 27 votes.

Brij Khindaria was nominated by Jennifer as treasurer and this was seconded. There were no other candidates. Brij was elected with 31 votes.

Jennifer Freedman was nominated as secretary by Nick and this was seconded. There were no other candidates. Jennifer was elected with 30 votes.

The following individuals were nominated (with nominations seconded) as committee members: Tamer Aboalenin, Jean-Pierre Kapp, Jamey Keaten, Nina Larson, Tom Miles, Shreerupa Mitra-Jha, Lisa Schlein, Laurent Sierro and Betul Yuruk.

In the voting, Nina received 27 votes, Shree 21, Jean-Pierre 19, Laurent 19, Betul 18, Jamey 15, Tamer 11, Tom nine and Lisa four As a result, the new committee was made up of Nina, Shree, Jean-Pierre, Laurent and Betul, with the others as substitute members in the event that any of the previous five resigned.

The assembly then reappointed Raja as the auditor.

The assembly ended at 10:55 am.