On Tuesday, the United Nations gave Americans yet another reason not to trust their tax dollars, policy decisions or military forces with the increasingly outlandish international organization.
The World Health Organization -- the UN's public health policy arm -- kicked the public and the media out of a discussion of a proposed international tobacco tax during its biennial tobacco control meeting.
The WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is meeting this week in the South Korean capital Seoul, began on a high note. The convention's member countries on Monday ratified an agreement to fight smuggled and pirated tobacco products.
That goodwill was quickly destroyed when delegates of the member countries of the conference stripped the media of the ability to cover the meeting and escorted public onlookers from the premises. The decision to meet behind closed doors occurred when a discussion began about efforts to decrease tobacco use by increasing the price of tobacco products.
As the session began, the session's chairwoman expressed concern that there was a "large presence" of tobacco growers and industry representatives in the public gallery. That would be unsurprising, since the discussion has a significant impact on the livelihood of the tens of millions of people employed by tobacco farming and production. The countries then agreed to make the rest of the meeting private.
This decision to blockade people who make a living off of tobacco from WHO discussions is nothing new. Tobacco growers and the tobacco industry are not allowed in the convention, cannot have a voice about tobacco regulations invented and implemented by the WHO, and have been constantly vilified during the first two days of the convention. Instead they must try to get in by waiting in line each day for a limited number of public passes that allow them simply to observe, but not participate, in the meeting.
Not content with just barring the public from sitting in on the discussion, the convention leaders went on to ban journalists from the session, as well.
As a reporter covering this meeting, this was not only a frustrating stance, but it raises some serious questions about an organization that for years has operated largely behind the scenes and without the benefit of much public scrutiny. When is the media more necessary than when an unaccountable, shadowy organization that devours millions of tax dollars each year from people across the world debates getting in the business of issuing global taxes?
The WHO's effort to silence the press is particularly chilling since, while the organization is busy booting the media from its own meetings, its parent organization, the United Nations, claims to fight to advance "free, independent and pluralistic media" across the world.
Apparently, UN and WHO leaders believe in media rights in all cases except when the media covers them.
Of course, judging by the topics discussed so far during the WHO's tobacco control convention, there is little wonder why the international bureaucrats wanted to prevent the media from hearing more.
For example, the representative from the Pacific island nation of Palau encouraged the WHO to also consider an international tax scheme for candy, sodas and even alcohol. Shockingly, a number of other member countries expressed their support of the frightening idea.
When a representative of Ukraine expressed concern that tobacco regulations may compromise the independence of individual nations, and a Cuban official encouraged the convention attendees to be mindful of the many hardworking farmers whose lives depend on tobacco, they were met with rolled eyes and scornful looks.
Fortunately, the United States is one of only 18 countries in the world that has not signed on to be a member of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. That won't be the case if some American health officials have their way. A representative of the U.S. government, speaking as an observer state, said she hopes that U.S. will become a full party to the convention "in the near future."
Tuesday's outrageous attack on the principles of a free press should be further proof to Americans that we should stay far away from this tyrannical international government body.
Drew Johnson is the editor of the Free Press opinion page at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Prior to joining the Times Free Press, Drew founded and served as president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (now the Beacon Center to Tennessee). Under Drew’s leadership, the organization became one of the most innovative and effective state-based free market think tanks in the country, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and ushering in a ...
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