(NEW YORK – C-FAM) Last week, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the German government held a conference in Berlin to promote "sexual and reproductive rights." Despite being billed as a "global" event, conference organizers admitted to deliberately blocking any participation from anyone in either the media or civil society who did not agree with their "reproductive rights" agenda.
Four hundred delegates from 131 countries attended the "Global NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development." A review of the list of conference participants reveals a "who's who" of prominent long-time abortion rights advocacy groups such as "Catholics" for Choice, Ipas, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and Marie Stopes International.
Participation at the conference was by application only. Potential attendees had to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and provide detailed answers as to the activities of their non-governmental organization (NGO), particularly how their NGO supports the "sexual and reproductive health and rights" aspects of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
Media representatives were put through a similarly rigorous screening by the conference organizers. Citing "space constraints," media representatives were also required to "apply" for the opportunity to cover the conference, even if paying their own way. It was not enough for prospective journalists to have a "letter of assignment" from a media outlet, but journalists also had to submit three bylined articles.
Two journalists assigned by the oldest conservative publication in the United States, Human Events, were denied media credentials on the grounds that media credentials were "exclusively for bono-fide [sic] journalists from professional media organizations that are not connected to non-governmental advocacy organizations" and, further, "due to space and other considerations" it was decided to "deny all NGO-related media."
Human Events sent a letter pointing out that the individuals assigned to conference had fulfilled all the application requirements and clarifying that the publication is not NGO-connected. Conference organizers remained steadfast in their rejection of the journalists.
Two journalists who were accredited to the Berlin meeting told the Friday Fax that they were shocked to hear of the rejection of the Human Events journalists as "there is not so much media here." One journalist from Pakistan told the Friday Fax that she never applied and that she had not even heard of the meeting until she received an invitation from the conference organizers. She also said that the organizers covered her flight and hotel costs. Another journalist from India who attended the conference openly stated that while she was attending the conference as a media representative, she was affiliated with an NGO who dealt with HIV/AIDS and was writing for the organization's website.
At the final press conference, organizers did not hide their bias against conservative journalists. One reporter asked how the conference could be called "representative of all NGOs of the world" when conservative organizations and media were not accredited." Gill Greer, forum chair and director-general of IPPF, responded by stating that that organizers wanted media representatives who would specifically "advance these issues of women's health and women's rights."