NLP declines to accept terms for participation in U.N. agency event for World Press Freedom Day


Alan C. Miller

Founder and CEO

Update May 3, 12:00 p.m.: The presentation we had planned to make at the UNAOC event is now at the end of this blog post.

Update May 3, 9:45 a.m: The second paragraph was revised to clarify that the remarks on restrictions in press freedom in certain countries were written by NLP and are not the opinion of the lesson host.

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) indefinitely postponed an event at the U.N. tomorrow to observe World Press Freedom Day after the News Literacy Project (NLP) refused UNAOC’s request to remove references in our presentation to several countries where press freedom is limited.

The references are in videos from a new lesson on international press freedoms in our Checkology® virtual classroom, which I was planning to introduce at the event. The videos include remarks, written for the lesson by NLP and presented by lesson host Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of NPR, about severe restrictions on press freedom in Turkey, Mexico and Egypt and comments by Russian and Pakistani journalists describing the challenges they face.

NLP submitted the presentation to UNAOC on Monday so it would be ready to be shared with the audience. A UNAOC official then asked us to delete the reference to Turkey — which, along with Spain, had proposed the creation of UNAOC in 2005 — and the official later insisted that NLP not share any of the video clips.

I could not permit this censorship of our presentation due to the stated concern that it would offend one or more countries engaged in repression and violence against journalists. We at NLP find UNAOC’s decision particularly ironic because the event was to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. We had not discussed prior review of our presentation with UNAOC and would not have agreed to participate if it had been asked.

I was to serve as moderator of a panel focusing on “the role of press freedom internationally” and highlighting “NLP’s new lesson on world press freedoms,” according to UNAOC’s announcement of the event. Participants were to include Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s Reliable SourcesFarnaz Fassihi, senior writer at The Wall Street Journal; and staffers from the International Center for Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Lie Detectors, an educational program.

In an email today, UNAOC told the panelists and more than 150 registered attendees that the long-planned event was being postponed “until future notice” because of another event at the U.N. scheduled at the same time.


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