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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Committee on Information
Twenty-sixth Session
4th Meeting (PM)
PI/1576
28 April 2004

COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE, WITH FOCUS ON REORIENTATION
OF DPI, RATIONALIZATION OF INFORMATION CENTRES NETWORK

More In-Depth Study Needed
Before Next Stage of Rationalization Process, Delegations Say


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Background

The Committee on Information met today to continue its general debate.  It was also expected to hear replies from Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor.

Statements

AYRE MEKEL (Israel) said that the task of the Department of Public Information (DPI) was a straightforward one, namely, to tell the world its own story.  Information was the blood in the world’s circulatory system.  Modern society lived and died by it, and progress was fuelled and defined by it.  In fighting global scourges like AIDS and international terror, free access to information was the world’s best tool.  Communication must be neutral and unfettered.  It was DPI’s job to be the United Nations information circulatory system.  Often, it was successful in that task.  He applauded the work done this year by DPI to facilitate substantive issues, such as the peacekeeping missions in Africa and efforts to raise the profile of the campaign for the Millennium Development Goals.

Israel viewed with interest the plans made and actions taken towards the rationalization of the network of United Nations Information Centres (UNICs), he said.  The decision to establish different models for the information hubs situated in developing countries from those based elsewhere made sense.  Accommodating those centres to the social conditions in which they were situated was an imperative of logic.  Nuances in local societies demanded nuances in global information.  He regretted, however, that DPI had chosen not to establish an information centre in Israel, despite its requests, and despite the fact that there were information centres in nearby Arab countries.  Establishing an information centre in Israel would serve not only to educate Israelis about the United Nations, but would also to help substantiate the claim that the Organization was indeed objective and impartial regarding that part of the world.

Israel commended the efforts directed towards the continuing reorientation in public information and communications, the increasingly effective United Nations Web site and the modernization of the United Nations library system, he said.  A vast amount of progress had been made in reorganizing and making better use of communication logistics at its disposal.  DPI’s modernization was significant.  The medium, however, was not always the message.  While DPI’s mandate was one of fairness and international neutrality, it was regularly steered by the voices and interests of certain groups of States.

While Israel was gladdened by DPI’s achievements, it was also weary of disheartening politicization that swallowed many of its initiatives and activities, he said.  It was unjust and inappropriate for DPI’s conferences, summits and reports to push the narrow political objectives of certain Member States.  It was wrong and misguided for the DPI to allow individual States to be repeatedly and unwarrantedly singled out in its documents and forums.  The DPI should provide a system for the free flow of unbiased information.  Any deviation from that path was detrimental to the DPI, the United Nations and the world community.

Israel, he said, was disappointed that it was still singled out by the DPI in various seminars and publications.  While he recognized the Under-Secretary-General’s efforts to make seminars and materials more objective, Israel continued to be the only Member State that was singled out for unfair treatment.  The time had come to abolish the “Palestinian Section” and to instead put those resources towards the goal of peace in the Middle East.  Also, his delegation was disheartened by the fact that among its many staff members, DPI did not have even one Israeli employee.

The United Nations’ status as a neutral and positive force on the world stage depended upon its use of information, and its use of information depended upon the DPI, he said.  Israel urged the Department to be aware of all that was at stake.  The DPI and the United Nations, in general, should make sure that its officials treated Member States fairly.  That was not always the case.  Earlier in the week, Israel had been compelled to send a letter to the Secretary-General in protest of recent anti-Israeli statements by a senior United Nations official.

By combating biased information of all kinds in the world’s communication matrix, the DPI could lead the march towards harmony within its own sphere of influence, he said.  In a period of rapid change, both in information technology and in the world’s geopolitical structure, DPI stood at the nexus of those forces and was in a position to influence how they interacted.  Regarding the struggle against anti-Semitism, DPI had made modest progress, but it was not enough.  In that regard, DPI must work to educate against hatred and against the provocation to hate.  Incitement was endemic and rampant throughout the world.  The DPI should act to counter that negative force in the world today.

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