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On the Ground in Copenhagen
A Reporter's Perspective

by Andrew Freedman

It's yet another busy and confusing day here at COP15. Reporters arrived in the media center this morning to find new security procedures in place that were never discussed with the more than 3,000 reporters here from around the world. Reporters would be allowed into the media center, we were told, but in order to go out of the room to anywhere else in the Bella Center, they would need to go through a second layer of metal detector/x-ray security checks, and would have to be escorted. Escorts were going to be run every 20 minutes.

Upon hearing about these measures, one European reporter protested loudly "How are we supposed to do our jobs?"

That has been the same question asked by every nongovernmental organization (NGO) here during the past two weeks, since the United Nations has steadily reduced the number of NGO representatives allowed into the building to a tiny fraction of those who had registered. Fortunately for the media, the UN decided that journalists are "more important than the NGOs," arguably not a wise decision.

Regardless, soon after reporters had cued up in a long line to attend the first press conference of the day (there was to be a 9:20 "escort" to the briefing room), the x-ray machines and metal detectors were mysteriously shunted aside. When asked what happened, a Danish security guard told me "the UN decided it [the additional restrictions] wasn't necessary."

Clearly the UN realized how huge a PR disaster it would be if they locked a few thousand reporters into a room, while relatively open negotiations carried on down the hallway. That could be the end of all talk of a "transparent process." Journalists and "observers" all along have endured 10-hour lines and having to learn or re-learn French when translation headsets suddenly stop working.

Right now, reporters are back to business as usual here: prowling the hallways to look for delegates, grab the latest copies of draft texts, and attend the blizzard of news conferences that fill up the day.

Speaking of which, I gotta run to the U.S. briefing.

Andrew Freedman is an independent science writer and blogger.

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December 17, 2009