Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Public, media to be kept at bay from WHO’s tobacco meet

Media and public will not be allowed to attend World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) negotiations, which started in Greater Noida on November 7. After the first day came to an end, seventh Convention of Parties (COP7) arrived at a consensus to keep media and public out of the meetings that will go on until November 12.

Those present at the venue said that major tobacco companies had obtained entry under the ‘Public’, and were seated in plenary session at the main hall on the first day.

“Some Congressmen from Brazil having ties with Philip Morris International cigarette company were seen lurking around at the venue, not as a part of the official Brazilian delegation but as part of public,” said Jorge Adolfo Vega Cardenas, Senior Latin American Policy Coordinator at Corporate Accountability International, based in Mexico.

Industry interference has spelt a death knell for journalists who have been disallowed to attend. Media is to be accredited in a separate process with the FCTC to be able to be present at the venue. Strangely, under current Rules of Procedure governing proceedings at COP, media falls under the category of ‘Public.’

Sources said that on Wednesday, the Thai delegation will propose a solution to this by changing rules of procedure to treat media as a separate category all together.

It is for the third time after earlier COPs 5 and 6 in Moscow and Seoul that media and public have been asked to leave plenary sessions and side meetings at the venue.

Although 181 countries could have voted on the first day of the plenary session to treat media as a separate category, they refrained from doing so. “The parties did not make a decision during the first day of the plenary to treat media as a separate category, which means media has no access to the plenary or committee meetings,” said a WHO official at the venue.

Union Health Ministry issued instructions to Indian journalists on Tuesday stating, “Fully accredited journalists will be permitted to enter public areas like press room and food hall. Journalists cannot enter meeting rooms and main hall.”

“COP is a governing body of the WHO FCTC and therefore decisions reached by the Parties regarding access to the event is at their discretion,” said a media briefing statement by convention secretariat.

“At the previous two COPs and this being the third, the governments wasted time and money deciding how to deal with an industry that has infiltrated the process. We must push Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to take a stand at this COP and fix the issue of attendance of Public and Media,” said an Indian delegate at the venue, who did not wish to be identified. “Media should not be included under ‘Public.’ Public category should be done away with under Article 5.3 and accredited media (which has no ties with the industry) should be allowed to attend. Those violating rules should be asked to leave.”

Dr Arun Panda, additional secretary (health) said, “India is merely providing space for conducting the conference. All major decisions are taken by 180-odd governments.”

Queries sent to official spokespersons asking which industry personnel may have attended the sessions under ‘public,’ and how will it be done, went unanswered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>