April 23, 2024

Press Freedom

United Nations April 7, 2005

Kofi Annan
Secretary General
United Nations Organization
United Nations Building
New York , N.Y. 10017

Dear Mr. Annan:

We are following with tremendous interest the organizational reforms now proposed to the members of United Nations. We can only hope that among the forthcoming changes will be an overhaul of the current system which allows inclusion on the Human Rights Commission representatives from among the world’s most implacable opponents of free expression.

Throughout each year, the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) Freedom of the Press committee speaks up on behalf of journalists in jeopardy around the world. And year after year, current Commission members: China, Cuba and Zimbabwe head the list of countries with records that make clear their overt hostility to a free press and independent thinking.

As you must know, Mr. Annan, the Human Rights Commission has been steadily losing credibility in recent years, beginning with the ascendance of Libya as its chair in 2003. As our colleagues at Reporters sans frontières (RSF) pointed out in 2004, 25 of the United Nation’s 53 member-countries have not even ratified all international human rights agreements, treaties and conventions — and yet are eligible to sit on the Commission. The idea that such nations, together with Hungary and the Netherlands , are currently judging the human-rights record of other countries would be comical if the implications for professional journalists were not so dire.

We add our support to two specific proposals made by RSF to reform the composition of the Human Rights Commission. Firstly, to be eligible for membership on the commission a member nation must have all ratified the essential international agreements respecting human rights. Secondly, the practice of introducing “no-action motions”, which can block any discussion about large-scale human-rights violators that happen to be U.N. members, must be abolished.

The United Nations Organization appears to be seizing on its difficulties of the recent past to rejuvenate its sense of mission. In that rejuvenation may lie the rehabilitation of its credibility as the planet’s great guardian of law and human rights. With that in mind, we can think of no better away of signaling your seriousness of purpose than by beginning with the Human Rights Commission.

Very truly yours,
Kevin McDermott
Norman Schorr
Co-chairmen – Freedom of the Press Committee



Ambassador B.G. Chidyausiku

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission the Republic of Zimbabwe

to the United Nations

128 East 56th Street

New York , NY 10022

Fax: (212) 308-6705


Ambassador Orlando Requeijo Gaul

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba

to the United Nations

315 Lexington Avenue

New York , NY 10016

Fax: (212) 689-9073


Ambassador Wang Guangya

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China

to the United Nations

350 East 35th Street

New York , NY 10016

Fax: (212) 481-2998


Anne W. Patterson

Acting Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the United States of America

to the United Nations

140 East 45th Street

New York , NY 10017

Fax: (212) 415-4053