Letter: PEN Canada to UNFCCC re: Rebel News Network

PEN Canada press release

The following letter was sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat on October 5, 2016 after PEN Canada learned that the Rebel News Network was denied media accreditation on the grounds of being “advocacy media”. Rebel News Network was granted media accreditation on October 31, 2016. 

PEN Canada to UNFCCC re: Rebel News Network Media Accreditation

UNFCCC Secretariat
P.O. Box 260124 D-53153 Bonn, Germany

Via email: press@unfccc.int
October 5, 2016
Re: UNFCCC media accreditation for Rebel News Network Dear Sir or Madam,

PEN Canada recently learned that the secretariat for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has declined media accreditation to representatives of The Rebel News Network seeking to cover the Climate Change Conference in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November 2016.

According to PEN’s information, Rebel News Network’s applications for accreditation of a reporter and producer to attend the conference were refused on the grounds that “advocacy media outlets do not qualify for accreditation.” (An application from a Rebel cameraman is also pending.)

The UNFCCC website provides no information that “advocacy media” cannot be granted accreditation, nor does it specify just what that term means. The vagueness of the term “advocacy media” makes its application highly discretionary in our view, and would encompass much of general news journalism. Opinion pages, special reports, indeed advocacy journalism appears in many of the world’s great news sources, including The Guardian and The New York Times. The UNFCCC website warns that the secretariat will enforce “a quota for the maximum level of participants in relation to the physical capacity of the conference and media facilities” and will not process applications once this quota, or the October 17 deadline for media accreditation applications, is reached. In light of these time and number strictures, the refusal of accreditation without immediate reconsideration could unfairly exclude the legitimate applications of Rebel News Network.

As an organization that upholds the right to freedom of expression set out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, PEN Canada urges the secretariat to reconsider its position with respect to “advocacy media.” We believe that the real or perceived biases of a news agency lie beyond the scope of the secretariat and are irrelevant to the question of whether a legitimately constituted news outlet is properly admitted to the Conference. Rebel employs more than 20 journalists, including an accredited member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canada. It should be granted access to UN fora that will discuss and make decisions on matters of great Canadian and international significance.

I thank you for your urgent attention to this matter. I look forward to receiving a reply to this email at your earliest convenience.


Grace Westcott
Executive Director, PEN Canada gwestcott@pencanada.ca