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Alongside Ban's Relief at Killing OF Terrorists, AJE on Insultism Echoes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 10 -- Shortly after police raids in Paris in connection with the attack on the publication Charlie Hebdo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “I am relieved that these terrorists have been killed by the authorities of the French government.” Video here.

  Analysis of this is below, and here. But now we note reports of leaked e-mails from within Al Jazeera, whose call #JournalismIsNotACrime both Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access supports, now to the effect that "insultism is not journalism."

  But who defines "insultism"?

 Inner City Press' own experience at the UN is that the UN Correspondents Association's Executive Committee, with Al Jazeera on it, questioned it about running a satiric photograph of a UN Ambassador in a tuxedo, ultimately leading to a demand that the photograph be removed from the Internet, along with reporting about Sri Lanka. (Nothing since makes up for this.)

  Was that photograph "insultism"? Was this article about UNCA's president's conflict of interest on Sri Lanka?

  More recently, long after the call for global solidarity for Peter Greste - with whom Inner City Press conversed before his arrest, and the freedom of whom and his colleagues Inner City Press and FUNCA unequivocally support -- Al Jazeera at the UN in New York was happy to run upstairs to film Palestine's hand over of ICC documents, leaving other media waiting below. Is that solidarity?

  That's one thing. But it is contradictory to request global solidarity for #FreeAJstaff while, it seems, internally trashing other maligned and attacked journalists. Which is it? We'd love to hear, and would publish any response. Watch this site.

  As to Ban's relief at the killing of "terrorists" in Paris, it was transcribed by the UN as a Press Encounter at France's Mission to the UN, though the UN did not provide notice to journalists who cover the UN through its UN Media Alert.

Now the UN has told Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access that it allowed the French Mission to choose which journalists could be there. Notably, these journalists after Ban's statement asked only for "a word in French?" See transcript below.

  Here is what UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq replied to Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access:

"As I think my colleague Vannina explained, we do not handle the press arrangements for the French Mission. We do not as a practice list in the Media Alerts when the SG signs condolence books.  Those are normally a courtesy at which he does not speak. This was an exceptional circumstance in which he decided to make some remarks to media who were there, which we quickly transcribed and put out."

   Is it appropriate for the UN Secretariat to defer entirely to a country as to who can ask the Secretary General questions, a couple of blocks from the UN? Would this Secretariat similarly to defer to other member states?

  Concretely, which media happened to be in the French mission? Amid so much talk about freedom of the press, even or especially the controversial press, how was it decided which press could be there?

  Back on September 23, the Press was ordered out of the UN Briefing Room for an encounter by President Francois Hollande, video here. The UN Spokesman played a role, and later told Inner City Press and FUNCA that other countries got this service -- but never named them.

  While Parisians -- at least according to France 24 - are "relieved," isn't it news- and noteworthy that the Secretary General of the UN, which says it has a position against the death penalty, expresses "relief" that these two brother were killed by the authorities?

  Earlier, about that lack of notice, or selective notice, and the substance of Ban Ki-moon's quote, Inner City Press went as part of a Free UN Coalition for Access delegation to the UN Spokesperson's Office to ask. But the lead spokesman was said to be on his way to India with Ban Ki-moon; the deputy was out to lunch. So this was sent to these two UN spokespeople:

"Please explain why when the Secretary General held a “Press Encounter” at the French Mission it was not listed in the day's UN Media Alert or any update thereto. I asked in MALU and was told it had been only UNTV and UN Photo. But there are two questions, presumably from two correspondents, in the read-out.

"Given the similar omission earlier this week, please explain how the correspondents permitted to accompany the SG and ask the two questions were selected.

"On substance, on the SG's line that “I am relieved that these terrorists have been killed by the authorities of the French government” please state the SG's understanding at the time he said it of how the decedents died and were killed, and the consistency of this statement with UN positions on the death penalty, human rights while combating terrorism and extra-judicial executions."

  Apparently, none of the scribes who were invited asked a follow up about Ban Ki-moon's relief, the next question was simply to repeat it in French.

  How many governments, like that of the just voted-out Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka, will like and use what Ban said, that it is a relief to kill terrorists? What will the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid, Special Repporteurs like Ben Emmerson and those on extra-judicial executions, have to say? We'll follow this.  UN sent this out:


New York, 9 January 2015

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, could you tell us what you wrote and what your feelings are now that there have been reports that the perpetrators have been killed?

SG: I have expressed on behalf of the United Nations my most sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of France on this unacceptable terrorist attack against the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Yesterday, I telephoned President Hollande and conveyed my messages again, expressing our condolences and also encouraging him to show courage in overcoming this tragedy and difficult situation. As you may remember yesterday when I had the press stakeout, I emphasized that this is not a country, a war against religion or between religions – it is not anything on religion or belief by somebody or some country. This is a purely unacceptable terrorist attack – criminality. This kind of criminality must be brought to justice, in the name of humanity. I am relieved that these terrorists have been killed by the authorities of the French government.

  How and to whom is news doled out at the UN, when something big, and bad in the case of today's Charlie Hebdo murders in France, happens in the wider world?

  And why does the UN dole out Ban Ki-moon's quotes this way? Inner City Press asked, video here.

  On January 7 the UN did not announce even to all journalists inside the UN, much less to reporters in New York and around the world, or to the public, that Ban Ki-moon would read a statement about Charlie Hebdo. It was not put live on UNTV. Only those who paid money were notified in writing of Ban's "remarks," and after they were read out, they rushed to file this news.

  Some filed only one or two lines, like the Kuwait News Agency. (Ironic, because Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access had asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric just the day before about Kuwait imposing a year and eight months sentence for insulting the Emir). But KUNA in its short piece included the venue Ban had gift his remarks to, the UN Correspondents Association, now the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  That's the larger irony or absurdity: that Ban would make remarks against censorship in the clubhouse of a group whose board tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, whose then and now president demanded that an article about him and a financial link to Sri Lanka's ambassador be taken off the Internet. Ils ne sont pas Charlie.Or, #IlsNeSontPasCharlie

  Mostly, Ban's line or two were worked into larger stories, without any analysis much less critique of the UN -- that's the deal. Voice of America (see here and here), Agence France Presse (see here and here), Reuters (see here, here and straight up censorship, here).

  A photographic wire service sold a shot of Ban and UNCA's president Giampaolo Pioli looking like he was asleep - this while Pioli has said no one could be a member of UNCA and of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, thereby excluding FUNCA's hard-working photographic media. This is how it works.

  Ban Ki-moon's online public schedule for January 7 listed, and still at 2:45 pm only lists, two appointments: “12:00 p.m. Meeting with Mr. Mehdi Jomaa, Prime Minister of Tunisia and 3:30 p.m. Meeting with Mr. Jack Rosen, Chief Executive, Rosen Partners, LLC.”

    But UN correspondents who had paid money to UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance, had been sent an e-mail that Ban would make remarks in the clubhouse the UN gives them, sometime after 10:15 am.

   There at 10 am, UN Television was putting cameras in -- but still, nothing in the UN Media Alert or even UNTV Pool report. It became clear, while standing in front of the UN Censorship Alliance's clubhouse, that Ban would be using this private event to make his remarks on Charlie Hebdo, and predictable take no questions.

   What is the relationship between Ban's UN and UNCA? Journalists accredited to cover the UN are told, if they ask, that they are not required to join UNCA - and Inner City Press is not a member, having quit the group after being elected to its Executive Committee for 2011-12 and before, and then co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access.

   At noon on January 7, Inner City Press for FUNCA asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric why it was not in the Media Alert. Click here for video of that Q&A, and one on Sri Lanka, and from outside the private event, here.

   But the UN was using UNCA as a proxy for the whole press corps - trying, as more than one correspondent put it, to make them join UNCA to not “miss news” such as this.

  The past and returned president of UNCA, Giampaolo Pioli, has said that no correspondent who is a member of the Free UN Coalition for Access can be a member of UNCA. And the notification of and invitation to Ban's “remarks” was sent only to UNCA members, who pay dues money to UNCA.

  Is this appropriate?

  Inner City Press, after doing its best to cover Ban's short - and yes, questionless - remarks from the space outside the UN Censorship Alliance's clubhouse, Tweeted photo here, audio from source here, went to the day's UN noon briefing and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric why Ban's prepared remarks on the Charlie Hebdo killings had not been in the Media Alert.

  Dujarric replied that it was too short notice and said that it had been “squawked” -- only to in-house journalists who were inside the UN building -- at 9:45 am.  But that left a full hour to e-mail a Media Alert update to the wider list of journalists accredited to cover the UN. It wasn't done: it's the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  Inner City Press for FUNCA asked Dujarric why it wasn't listed on Ban's public schedule, while Rosen Partners was (Inner City Press asked what that meeting was about but was not told.)

  Dujarric replied that speaking to UNCA -- ostensibly wishing happy New Year to the journalists covering the UN, in an event publicized only to the subset which pays money to UNCA -- was an in-house event. Correspondents can, it seems, become too embedded.

  When asked why he would hold a Ban Ki-moon news event without making sure it was in the Media Alert, Pioli said “we have nothing to do with the Media Alert.” And that is one of the problems, or reality: UNCA is not ABOUT wider access to news at the UN.

  In fact, UNCA board members including Pioli tried to get Inner City Press thrown out in 2012, after demanding that articles and even photographs be taken down. #WeAreCharlie, as they say.

  At the end of the day's UN noon briefing, in which another journalist reminded Dujarric that not all UN correspondents are members of UNCA and the UNCA only sends notices to its dues paying members, Dujarric said he would look into that. That is not enough.

  Tellingly, from the Twitter feed of UNCA, which Dujarric claims can be relied on as a middleman to reach the UN press corps, Inner City Press is blocked. Any particular media could do it - but with UNCA doing it, the UN must cease using UNCA as a middle-man, as its Censorship Alliance.

 Notices should be sent to all UN accredited media. There is no reason to use UNCA as a middle-man. That Ban should not partner in this way with censors is another question. Prepared remarks should be in the Media Alert.  This is basic - and the Free UN Coalition for Access will remain on the case.


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