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UN Spokesperson Has No Response on Web Censorship, Yemen, Bans Transparency?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- While many new media organizations conducted a blackout during the day on January 18 to protest the Internet censorship threatened by the the Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) proposals in the US Congress in Washington, in New York the UN Spokeperson's office also seemed to be on strike, or at least not responding.

  On the morning of January 18, Inner City Press submitted three simple questions to three of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople, including a request for "any Ban, or secondarily UN system, comment on the Internet freedom issues raised by those today protesting the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Act proposals in the US."

  This would have been the day to comment - but Ban's spokesperson's office provided no comment. Nor did they answer a basic financial transparency question that Inner City Press has repeatedly asked in-person at the UN's noon briefings, of lead spokesman Martin Nesirky:

"As I've asked before, and now following the Deputy Spokesman's January 16 response that 'if in fact a private plane is ever used, it is normally announced,' I am asking that you inform me by email this morning what type of 'private jet' the Secretary General used on this trip, and who paid for it. This is basic transparency."

  No response, not even an attempted rationale for not disclosing the information that Ban's Deputy Spokesman has publicly stated "is normally announced."

  And even on one of Ban's claimed wins in 2011, Yemen, the UN provided no reaction to "Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, saying 'it would be "difficult" to hold the elections on Feb. 21 as planned.'"

  One might think that Ban's spokesperson's office may have adopted a policy of not answering questions sent by email, but only those posed in-person.

  But that's not true either: not only does Ban's office not answer many of the questions that are asked at the noon briefing -- when it later answers question posed at the briefing, it only tells some attendees and not others.

(c) UN Photo
Ban & his spokesman, answers, even responses, on censorship not shown

  Inner City Press on Monday, January 16 asked one of Ban's spokespeople:

"despite attending Monday's noon briefing and hearing Eduardo's statement that no request had been received, I didn't learn of this new answer [on Syria] until after 8 pm, when I returned from a Gabon press conference at the Millennium Hotel. Was the updated answer only squawked? Why wasn't it emailed out, at least to those who attended the noon briefing? I've asked Martin (and more recently Eduardo) repeatedly to email out answers given after the noon briefing -- many correspondents don't stay in their cubicles; Monday afternoon I was across First Avenue conducting an interview in DC-1. Can you explain how this information went out?"

  But Ban's spokesperson's office didn't even answer this question. They are hitting a new low. Or, at least today, have they been refusing to work in protest of SOPA? Watch this this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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