Statement by Eileen P. Merritt, Adviser, U.S. Mission to the United Nations to the Committee on Information

U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
Eileen P. Merritt, Adviser
New York, NY
May 5, 2009


Thank you Mr. Chairman and good morning everyone. Let me congratulate you on your election as the chairman of the committee and the other members of the bureau on their election. We look forward to working with all members of this committee in a constructive manner as we consider the important issues before us.
On behalf of the United States we would like to thank Under Secretary General Akasaka for his remarks delivered yesterday. We are also appreciative of the detailed reports of the Secretary General on the activities of the Department of Public Information that were prepared in response to General Assembly resolution 63/100 B.

We continue to encourage the Under Secretary General to identify ways to improve coordination, efficiency, and integration of the Department of Public Information activities throughout the entire UN system. We welcome the Under Secretary General’s efforts to date to communicate the broad activities and concerns of the United Nations and to achieve the greatest public impact with the greatest efficiency.

Given the constraints we will face in the 2010-2011 budget, DPI, as with other parts of the Organization, must take action to improve its efficiency and effectiveness within current resources. We have a duty to help DPI work within these constraints without undermining their mandate. We note efforts by DPI to improve synergy between headquarters and the field and we encourage continued efforts in this regard. Furthermore, we encourage DPI to continue to incorporate new media technologies that enable DPI to disseminate UN information in a cost effective and efficient manner.

Our delegation remains committed to streamlining the resolution at the conclusion of the Committee on Information. Streamlining this resolution –in a holistic manner – would go a long way towards providing DPI with guidance that it needs and deserves from member states.

Mr. Chairman,

On Sunday May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day was commemorated around the world. Freedom of the press, a cornerstone of American democracy, is enshrined in our Constitution's Bill of Rights. We strongly believe that a free press is fundamental for true democracy. For this particular body – the Committee on Information – it is important that we recall the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' affirmation in Article 19 that "everyone has the right to freedom of expression…this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

In closing, Mr. Chairman, The United States would like to thank Under Secretary General Akasaka and his staff for their hard work.

Mr. Chairman,

The United States must respond to the statement made earlier in this committee by the delegate from Cuba.

The United States Government takes its international obligations very seriously, including its obligations under the ITU Constitution, Convention and the Radio Regulations.

The United States also supports the right of the Cuban people to freedom of expression and the free flow of information, in furtherance of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our policy has been and will continue to be to broadcast information to the Cuban people out of concern for their welfare and in recognition that they do not have free access to information. We believe that everything we are doing is proper.

Earlier this year, the U.S. also announced measures to increase the degree of contact between Americans with family members in Cuba by expanding family travel and to increasing the opportunities for communication among Cubans on the island and between Cubans and persons worldwide by authorizing U.S. businesses to negotiate agreements to facilitate various types of telecommunications connections and support endeavors. We have done this because, as noted above, we believe in and promote free flow of information, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your attention.


PRN: 2009/092