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UNWTO Bans Critical Press at World Travel Market

Hopefully WTTC has a friend in Bahrain

A free press is fundamental to a democratic society. It seeks out and circulates news, information, ideas, comments, and opinions, and it holds those in authority accountable. The press provides the platform for a multiplicity of voices to be heard. At national, regional, and local levels, it is the public’s watchdog, activist, and guardian as well as educator, entertainer, and contemporary chronicler. Apparently dictators are afraid of such a public watchdog, and so is UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

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  • UNWTO is a United Nations affiliated agency subject to international law.
  • Currently, the UNWTO has an illegitimate Secretary General running the organization like a dictator. According to a legal interpretation by the lawyer who was involved creating UNWTO policies, SG Zurab Pololikashvilihe was only put in place by manipulation. The initial election in 2018 should not be recognized.
  • The Secretary General managed to avoid all critical press questions ever since he took the helm on January 1, 2018. Today was an example on how far UNWTO would go to shut up anyone not agreeing with the Secretary General.

The first ministerial summit at World Travel Market since the pandemic, took place today in London at the WTM World Stage at the Excel Exhibition Center.

Like always, ministers were meeting to discuss relevant issues to the World Tourism Organization and the state of the industry. As was the case ever since UNWTO was established as a UN agency, journalists were part of the audience, but they could not ask questions. After the ministerial discussion, it was customary to have a press conference.

All of this changed on January 1, 2018, when Zurab Pololikashvili became in charge of world tourism.

Press conferences at major trade shows or the ministerial round tables no longer took place. Zurab only appears for photo ops and disappears.

During the entire COVID-19 crisis, the UNWTO Secretary General avoided all critical press. Today in London, the Secretary General went a step further.

To avoid any critical feedback or questions, he deliberately blacklisted journalists that write for publications like this one, eTurboNews.

The reason: eTurboNews had been critical to the Secretary General.

Avoiding negative perception is even more important today, since Zurab Pololikashvili is up for a second term, and his re-election needs to be reconfirmed by the General Assembly in Madrid.

Having won the second term recommendation by the Executive Council in January due to heavy manipulation, having managed to change the venue for the General Assembly to Madrid, it is giving a clear advantage for Zurab to be reconfirmed for a second term as UNWTO Sercterary General the end of this month. Critical questions are not good for him.

Today’s ministerial meeting at WTM London was one of those activities he attended for the first time since COVID. He needed to look good weeks before his confirmation hearing, but he could not face the media.

The Hon. Najib Balala, Secretary of Tourism for Kenya, was turned down by UNWTO last week after he invited the General Assembly to be held in Kenya instead of Madrid.

Minister Balala was in London today to attend the ministerial meeting. He was told there were no more seats left for ministers. He left the event minutes after entering, telling eTurboNews publisher, Juergen Steinmetz, who was waiting at the exit door.

All reporters attending WTM were seated for the event, except eTurboNews represented by Juergen Steinmetz. He was made a persona non grata, not allowed to enter the summit.

eTurboNews is an official media partner for the World Travel Market, but this did not make any difference. eTurboNews was threatened by a UN official when taking a video of this incident.

UNWTO seems to be successful in avoiding criticism by major mainstream media.

CNN for example is an official media partner earning millions of advertising dollars from tourism destinations. A CNN Task Group was formed with UNWTO by Anita Mendiratta, a top advisor to the Secretary General. The CNN Task Group’s purpose is to sell advertising. This group was formed years ago, initially with eTurboNews as a partner. and it was eTurboNews that saw a conflict of interest and left the group with CNN, UNWTO, ICAO, and IATA remaining.

Marcelo Risi, in charge of communication for UNWTO, refused to talk to Steinmetz. He was seen running away from the situation, saying: “Juergen, I am busy.”

This is not only an embarrassing situation, but it’s a clear violation of press freedom and a clear case of discrimination.

Not only did Steinmetz represent eTurboNews, but he is also the Chairman of the World Tourism Network, an international tourism organization. Steinmetz is also a member of the executive board of the African Tourism Board.

He tried to reach out to the co-organizer of the ministerial summit, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), but officials at the door refused to get a WTTC official to talk to him, saying they don’t know what WTTC stands for.

In a short meeting with WTTC after the event, leaders of that organization were not informed of what took place.

Watch the iPhone video showing the situation unfolding:

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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