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August 20, 2018

What UNWTO doesn’t want you to listen to….


Is the UNWTO General Assembly a closed event? The publisher of this publication received a  surprisingly urgent demand from the UNWTO Chief of Communication and Publications officer Sandra Carvao on December 21, 2017. Her request was for Worldtourismwire to delete two recordings from a December 14 article published on this wire entitled UNWTO the Untold Story -click here to read- According to sources, this request came from the UNWTO legal counsel.

Carvao wrote: “Such material (recordings) is protected and this cannot be made public without the authorization of the people on tape. I would thus ask you to please consider to take out these recordings with immediate effect.”

She went on to question this publisher in concluding he didn’t attend the General Assembly “in the quality of media”,

While some journalists and photographers were hosted by UNWTO, the eTN Publisher Juergen Steinmetz attended the UNWTO General Assembly on his own time and invested his own money as a delegate representing the International Coalition of Tourism Partners. Steinmetz is the chairman of the organization. Professor Geoffrey Lipman who also attended is the president of ICTP.

Even though eTN was not invited to attend the press-conferences in Chengdu,  this publication was always the first international news outlet coming out with news from the event, or the first articles found on Google News.

The two recordings UNWTO wanted to be removed:

Recording one included the explanation to the general assembly on how the confirmation process works. The Chairwomen explained to the General Assembly the confirmation process on how to confirm or not confirm Zurab Pololikashvili as the candidate presented by the Executive Council.

The chairwoman explained such a confirmation is usually done by acclamation, except if a country requests a secret vote. She said only one country is necessary to demand a secret vote.  She went on to ask the General Assembly if any country requested a secret vote and The Gambia responded positively.

Shortly thereafter the microphone was given to the current Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai. Rifai is heard pleading with the full General Assembly for unity in the organization and to trust the Executive Council in their decision to elect Zurab Pololikashvili and to proceed with acclamation instead of a secret ballot.

The second recording included a debate by a number of countries pushing and effectively isolating The Gambia to withdraw their request for a secret vote.

Experts told eTN this alone should have been reason enough not to let The Gambia withdraw. This debate should have never taken place since one country already asked for a vote.

The recording also included the second intervention by Zimbabwe and the continuation to isolated this African country to agree on not having a vote. When this agreement was made and Pololikashvili was confirmed the Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism Dr. Walter Mzembi was invited to the stage and to shake hands with Pololikashvili, Rifai and everyone else.

Steinmetz said today from his home in Hawaii: “Journalists should feel safe reporting from a United Nations Event. The UNWTO General Assembly was an international event and should not have been subject to censorship procedures by its host country.  Including recordings from a public UN event in a relevant news article cannot be compared to a private recording between two people. This recording would have helped to show transparency and openness by UNWTO.

“The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists is currently debating and the Issue of Impunity is a worldwide framework which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers, both in conflict and non-conflict situations.

“All major and many not so major news channels use investigative reporting tools. These tools almost always include recordings.”

” What is there to hide? Everything at the General Assembly was recorded anyway, videos and photos are produced. The event had TV cameras running and recording the same content.?”

“In just 6 short days a new year starts, and for UNWTO a brand new leadership will be taking over. This leadership needs all the support it can get, It’s time to move forward.”

“eTN always appreciated our excellent professional relationship, friendship, and cooperation with UNWTO and the people behind the organization. We hope 2018 will not be any different. I also hope this UN Specialized Agency will put a focus on transparency and openness towards their members, affiliated members, the media, the travel & tourism industry and the global public as a whole. All of us here at the eTN Group of publications are looking forward to this.”

“Worldtourismwire asked UNWTO and the UN Headquarter in New York and a journalist association for more input on this issue. Depending on the response we will decide on the removal of the two recordings. The principle of a free press and the integrity and independence of our reporting has top priority for eTN. I hope our readers appreciate this.”

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