UNITED NATIONS. REMEMBERING MICHAEL LITTLEJOHNS: WHEN "UNCA" WAS UNCA

 

1 FEBRUARY 2014

REMEMBERING MICHAEL LITTLEJOHNS: WHEN "UNCA" WAS UNCA


U.N. Photo/Stephenie Hollyman

Weeks after Michael Littlejohns took over Reuter's U.N. office, he spread his professional wings to become a member of the decision-making process. Diplomats responded immediately to his queries, senior Secretariat officials paid attention to his considered questioning, and the Spokesmen -- starting with U Thant's Ramses Nassif and Bill Powell -- kept in close touch. His colleagues in news agencies and mainstream papers valued his competitive edge.

U.N. Correspondents took their task -- and the free space allotted to them -- seriously. Most of them reported regularly and more were afforded respectful areas to cover events. They were not shunted away behind roped barriers but offered chairs with writing pad seats even at the Security Council. They were able to attend certain Council consultations while they -- in turn -- respected diplomatic and political discretions. They did not go around seeking funds from sources with vested interests nor did they try to show off as socialites when they knew they had to cover humanitarian disasters, threats to peace and security, and poverty around the globe.

Professionally and personally, he went along very well, even with those who disagreed or competed with him. As President of UNCA, he earned everyone's respect for himself personally, for Reuters, and -- indeed -- for the U.N. among his counterparts in that demanding job. Upon retirement from Reuters, admiration for his work continued as he wrote a widely-read column in the Diplomat Bulletin and was persuaded by his friend and admirer Samir Sanbar to run a regular television show with the U.N. Department of Public Information -- entitled U.N. Chronicle.

Michael Littlejohns, who died January 2014 at age 91, was a decent person, an outstanding journalist, and a gracious friend. May his soul rest in peace.