Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Richard Branson…conscientious embargo breaker?

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Richard Branson, via Wikimedia

Richard Branson, via Wikimedia

There’s a puzzling embargo-related story playing out about someone whose name I didn’t really ever expect to see grace the pages of Embargo Watch: Billionaire Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.

Here’s what seems to have happened: This morning, Branson published a blog post at Virgin.com that began:

In an as-yet unreleased statement circulated to the BBC, myself and others, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has shaped much of global drug policy for decades, call on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs. This is a refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalisation of millions of drug users around the world. The UNODC document was due to be launched at the International Harm reduction conference in Malaysia yesterday.

But as The Independent reported shortly thereafter, Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy,

…said the “as-yet unreleased statement” had been sent to some of the world’s media under embargo – but that he has gone public with it early for fear the UN will “bow to pressure by not going ahead with this important move”.

That’s a fascinating act of embargo civil disobedience, and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

The U.N., however, denied that the two-page document in question was a final version:

A UN spokesman in Vienna said: “The briefing paper on decriminalisation … intended for dissemination and discussion at a conference in Kuala Lumpur is neither a final nor formal document from the UNODC, and cannot be read as a statement of UNODC policy.

“It remains under review and UNODC regrets that, on this occasion, there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding about the nature and intent of this briefing paper.

“UNODC emphatically denies reports that there has been pressure on UNODC to withdraw the document. But, it is not possible to withdraw what is not yet ready.”

The captain has illuminated the fasten-the-seat belt sign. Please remain comfortably seated until it is safe to move about the cabin.

Hat tip: Fabio Turone

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 19, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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