January 2nd, 2007 10:51 EST
With journalism as her foundation, new UN spokesperson pledges access to information
Michele Montas today began work as the spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, pledging to bring her experience as a journalist in Haiti, where she broadcast hard-hitting reports that put her life at risk, to the new assignment.
In an interview with UN Radio, Ms. Montas said there was no contradiction between her experience as a journalist and her new role speaking for the Secretary-General. “I don’t think I have put aside my journalistic inclinations or skills,” she said. “The essential role of a spokesperson is to give access to information which is not really available otherwise.”
Ms. Montas was offered the position on Sunday, just hours before it was publicly announced, and did not hesitate to accept. “I have absolutely no reason to think it is going to be easy but I said yes immediately,” she said, calling it “an honour to be appointed as the new spokesperson of the Secretary-General.”
Ms. Montas said the Secretary-General told her reform is a key priority. “He wants a more efficient and lean machine, something that can be more able to face the challenges of today – and these challenges are many.”
She added that he is seeking to cut red tape. “He wants less bureaucracy and he wants to simplify the way we do business at the UN to be able to be more efficient.”
An award-winning journalist, the new spokesperson has put her life on the line to expose political corruption, human rights abuses and State-sponsored violence in her native Haiti, where her fellow broadcaster and husband Jean Dominique was assassinated in 2000. Attempts to kill Ms. Montas twice forced her into exile and cost the life of her bodyguard in 2002. These events were chronicled by Jonathan Demme in a film called The Agronomist.
Looking back on her 28 years as a journalist in Haiti, during which she suffered exile, the murder of those closest to her and the closure of her radio station, Ms. Montas said that overall, “it was a fantastic experience in human terms and it has shaped the person I am today.”