The Nigerian delegation at the ongoing World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Convention of Parties 7th Conference, WHO FCTC COP7 in Delhi, India has kicked against the undemocratic stand of the world health body to ban journalists from covering the proceedings of the conference.

About 50 journalists from different parts of the world were accredited to cover the COP7 conference by the WHO only for the journalists to be restricted to attending only daily press briefings.

This development has led to protest by journalists covering the global event. An American Journalist, Drew Johnson was forcefully ejected out of a UN treaty meeting by Indian security agents on the instruction of the Conference authorities.

Faith Goldy, a Canadian journalist during a press conference accused WHO of lack of media accountability and transparency adding that media is an important stakeholder and the public deserve to know how decisions are made during proceedings.

“It is incredible how journalists will be shut out of WHO FCTC meetings. Why did WHO accredit journalists then? I travelled 14 hours in the air from Toronto only to be restricted to Press Centre where I will only listen to what WHO and the Parties want me to hear. How will journalists ask questions and file in reports? They want us to listen to their narrative alone. A conference on Tobacco should allow every interests to participate even the Tobacco companies should be allowed. WHO is not open and it is intimidating everyone,” she said.

Mrs. Abimbola Ajileye, of the Federal Ministry of Justice who presented a position paper at the Africa Regional Group meeting revealed that Nigeria, Brazil and some other countries argued against the shut out of journalists, insisting that shutting out media from proceedings runs against the spirit of openness and accountability.

“Our position is that WHO is focusing on the Tobacco companies, so-called big monster while leaving out national governments that are the main parties. It is national governments that have the political and economic willpower to implement whatever COP decides. Journalists are not the problem. We don’t agree that the media and public should be banned from attending plenaries and meetings,” she said.

WHO FCTC Rules of Procedure of the Conference of the Parties forbids the public from having any presence or observer status at COP meetings, and the media is categorized with public.

WHO and anti-Tobacco Civil Society Organisations ban on media is fueled by the suspicion that the media is very well influenced by the Tobacco companies