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Uganda Media Closures Brought to Ban's Attention, Free Press Begins at Home

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23, updated -- Calling in from Kigali, Rwanda to the UN noon briefing in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky described a visit to the genocide memorial in the rain; somber.

  Inner City Press asked if Ban had met with Congolese -- not Congolian -- opposition and if he was aware of the letter directed at him from the wife of opposition deputy Eugene Diomi Ndongala.

  While still awaiting an answer to that question [see below] and another, Nesirky's office did answer another of Inner City Press' questions, asked recently at the noon briefing and again Thursday in writing: "On Uganda, I'd like to ask again if any Secretary General or Secretariat views on actions against the media -- Daily Monitor, Red Pepper, Dembe FM and KFM -- in the run up to the S-G's arrival."

Well less than an hour later, this response was provided, which we publish in full:

Subject: Your question on Uganda
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Thu, May 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

Regarding your question on media in Uganda, the Spokesperson has the following to say:

The issue involving the closure of certain media in Uganda has been brought to the Secretary-Generalís attention.

The Secretary-General is not in a position to make judgments about the specific circumstances of this case; however, it goes without saying that for the United Nations, as a matter of principle, freedom of speech and expression are fundamental and universal rights.

The Secretary-General believes that, in any democracy, it is essential for there to be freedom of expression and for the media to be able to carry out its functions freely and independently.

  We'd like to know more about this bringing to the attention of the S-G, but the answer's appreciated.

  Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access are still waiting for denouement on the attempted ban on flyers and on media workspace in front of the renovated Security Council, and on the installation of a UN Security camera directly above the entrance to the office of Inner City Press and FUNCA, asked at the noon briefing on May 23.

 Have these, particularly the former, been brought to Ban Ki-moon's attention? Watch this site.

Update: later on Thursday, the UN told Inner City Press: "Regarding your question at noon on whether the UN has received a letter concerning Eugene Diomi Ndongala, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that letter has not been received so far."  Then again, it was a lettre ouverte -- an open letter....

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