October 19, 2023 • 2 minute
The IFLA Board of Directors has become caught up in the fact that Dubai is violating numerous human rights – and refuses to answer questions about it. Many expect more from an organization that has freedom of information as one of its core values, writes Biblioteksbladet’s editor-in-chief, Thord Eriksson.
Reaction was strong when it became known that next year’s Wlic conference would be held in Dubai and that Ifla had agreed to the host country’s request to keep issues related to the LGBTQ community out of the program. Instead, they will be addressed at another time elsewhere.
LGBTQI rights aren’t the only thing Dubai is violating.
“If you look at other rights that should matter to the LCA, such as freedom of information and the press, the country is one of the worst countries on earth,” says Devin Kenny, an Amnesty International expert, in the Martin Shippey report published yesterday by Biblioteksbladet. .
Clearly, all these violated rights are of no concern to EVLA. The organization never backed down from its decision to allow the oil emirate to host the World Drivers’ Congress next year.
There are of course questions to be asked about this topic, which Biblioteksbladet has done several times. But instead of responding to them, Biblioteksbladet has been referring to unsubstantiated written statements since last summer.
I thought this dismissive attitude was related to the leadership of former Board Chair Barbara Leeson. Despite numerous articles and questions about allowing her to conduct interviews, she was only willing to meet with us on one occasion – it was not about Dubai, but to respond to criticism about the appointment of a new Secretary-General.
“My offer is conditional on me receiving your questions at least two days in advance, and that you send me a draft of the article so that it can be examined and changed where necessary – and that you then publish the version of the interview to which I have agreed.”
During my career as a journalist, I rarely encountered similar demands, and of course these conditions could not be accepted, so there was no interview at that time either.
After yesterday’s post, it’s time again: Biblioteksbladet correspondent Karin Krona-Fock sent some questions to Barbara Leeson’s successor as president, Vicky MacDonald, and Secretary-General Sharon Mimi:
How do you see the controversy surrounding Wlic’s status in a country that violates gay rights?
Later: Could you have acted differently?
Do you see any problem with the decision to continue hosting Dubai’s Wlic conference next year?
Completely reasonable questions that I think many Ifla members would like to hear the answers to.
Neither MacDonald nor Mimis responded, but from the Information Department in The Hague there was the usual reference to a written statement on the IFLA website.
There is, of course, no obligation to answer journalists’ questions, but many might expect a different course of action from an organization that emphasizes freedom of information as one of its core values. The silence has long since begun to become awkward, but the explanation may not be malice but a lack of ability to communicate.
Whether Dubai’s leniency in human rights violations has actually tarnished IFLA’s reputation is another matter. But if an organization’s management can’t talk about its controversial decisions, perhaps it should make wiser choices instead?
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