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As Ban Ki-moon Meets Obama Next Week, Tells Only UN Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 30 -- At the UN, transparency and access are in decline, due to collusion. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not held a sit-down press conference in months. From an open meeting in which he gave a speech to UN Peacekeeping, embroiled in rape cover up scandals, Ban's security ejected Inner City Press, at the demand of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.

  But the UN tries to conceal this by partnering with an also in decay UN Correspondents Association, which does not complain about Ban or the ejection of the Press by Ladsous -- in fact, UNCA itself tried to eject the Press for reporting on its current president's conflict of interest, unilaterally granting a UN screening for a Sri Lanka government film denying war crimes after renting an apartment to Sri Lanka's ambassador, here.

(Inner City Press on July 30 asked Ban's spokesman about more UN covering up of war crimes, so far without answer.)

  Still, with Ban Ki-moon scheduled to visit the White House in Washington next week and space for media coverage, one would have expected the UN to tell all journalists, at least the "resident correspondents" at the UN. But no - Ban's spokesperson's office told only UNCA, now the UN Censorship Alliance, which told only those which pay it money:

"Dear Colleagues, The Secretary-General will be going to Washington for a meeting with President Obama on Wednesday 4 August. The meeting will take place around 10am.

There will be a photo-op/brief remarks by POTUS and the SG in the Oval Office after the meeting.  If any UNCA members are interested in attending, as the White House said they could accommodate a few journalists, please contact Stephane Dujarric by tomorrow afternoon, Thursday. July 30th:

Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters |  Room: S-233
New York, NY, 10017

Transportation to Washington is the correspondent's own responsibility.

Giampaolo Pioli, UNCA President"

This notice was given to Inner City Press by dissatisfied UNCA "members" who are strong-armed into paying money in order to get such information. (We note that August 4 is Tuesday, while Wednesday is August 5.) Inner City Press sought confirmation more than an hour before this publication -- "Please confirm or deny that the Secretary General is visiting the White House next week, and if confirm, say how and to whom this has already been announced or disclosed" -- but none was received.

  Relatedly at the UN, unthinking support is sought from outsiders without full disclosure - for example Leonardo DiCaprio, see below. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon holds no press conferences in the UN, even as the Yemen humanitarian pause he announced didn't materialize; on July 21 while his Deputy Spokesperson said of Ban, "this week, he is away from the office," his UN scheduled said "all appointments are internal."

In late June Ban's security detail ejected the Press from an open meeting in which Ban spoke to UN Peacekeeping force commanders. That ejection was at the demand of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous - this is confirmed, by Security which says it will not again act act as bouncer for Ladsous, who now rather than speaking at the UNTV stakeout like his predecessors summons a few friendly journalists to whom to deliver or deposit "news." The new Free UN Coalition for Access challenged this; the old UN Correspondents Association says nothing, as its past and current leadership takes advantage of, or doesn't care about, the lack of access.

  Given these trends, discontent within UNCA rank and file led to the release of these [annotated] minutes of a July 13 meeting of UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance, below. These minutes state that

"Giampaolo Pioli announced dinner on Monday, December 14, at Cipriani Wall Street. Site was selected because of SGs schedule and space availability. Honorees include Prince Albert of Monaco and most likely Leonardo DiCaprio whose final confirmation is expected in August."

  DiCaprio may conflate the UN with this UN Censorship Alliance; it is unclear if he knows his inviter for example rented one of his apartments to an alleged war criminal, that used the organization to demand that an article reporting this be removed (censored) from the Internet or the investigative Press ejected from the UN.

  An award at Cipriani sounds nice - but from whom? This is the sloppiness, much of it intentional, at the UN. We'll have more on this.

"Giampaolo Pioli (Chair), more proxies than present

"Giampaolo announced dinner at Cipriani Wall Street, "special discount price of $100." Site was selected because of SGs schedule and space availability. Honorees include Prince Albert of Monaco and most likely Leonardo DiCaprio whose final confirmation is expected in August. UNCA members were encouraged to apply for the media awards [No conflict there, of course]. 

Security arrangements for the upcoming UNGA:  Green Ps will not have to wait in the same line as those seeking accreditation... High speed internet issues: a possible solution is having a separate access code for media center reporters in the NLB. [UNCA seems most concerned with obtained more privileges than other journalists.]

 UNSC stakeout: No access to the council when meetings are not being held, but reporters can move there before meetings once UN TV sets up. [UNCA "leaders" have tried to limit other journalists like this before: FUNCA resists it.]

 Reporters will be able to pay for high speed internet and access to other Time Warner channels for a fee. Anyone who wants to subscribe to TW needs to inform Melanie by email in order to provide a list to the installers. [So UNCA is a middleman, purportedly for all journalists, for corporate Time Warner?]

 Review of procedures for holding UNCA press conferences: It was decided that UNCA will be more selective in hosting press conferences and will focus on subjects and speakers that are a big draw. Meeting adjourned at 5:00 pm. It was followed by a wine and cheese reception."

  UNCA "press conferences" have degenerated into Italian book club events; previously, Pioli hosted his former tenant Palitha Kohona to screen a video denying war crimes in Sri Lanka, then used the organization to demand a Press article about it be removed from the Internet. This is the UN Censorship Alliance.

The invitation, which even most UNCA members ignored, said "At the end of the meeting, we will have a glass of wine to wish everyone a good summer vacation."

  Whether the Hamptons or the Amalfi coast, when UN press access is in decline, it time to share a glass of wine.

 2015 opened with Ladsous openly refused to answer Press questions, video here.

  "Leadership" of the UN Correspondents Association, far from questioning this, took advantage by grabbing two qeustions, just as UNCA demands and most often wastes side-aside first questions at UN press conferences.

  The following day, January 23, there was a UN Security Council meeting about human rights and UN Peacekeeping missions, including MONUSCO. But the meeting was closed to the public and press. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked and asks, Why? The old United Nations Correspondents Association, on the other hand, not only doesn't protest such closures - it scheduled its only "faux fighters" meeting for exactly the same time.

  This decayed UN Correspondents Association, run by president Giampaolo Pioli who has himself demanded censorship, held its annual meeting on January 23, and even by its own account, not a work about access problems or lack of information.


Here was the agenda, annotated, now with "minutes" as provided by disgruntled members who say the UN "makes" them pay UNCA, added in italics:

Space, "including journalists on the waiting list for office space" -- on January 23, UNCA's "leadership" said that "that after meeting with DPI working space on the 4th floor will become available to 6-8 journalists beginning in February."

  Even or especially if this representation is true, there is a problem: UNCA is essentially selling or trying to sell these UN spaces. UNCA tells correspondents that if they pay money to join it, they will be helped in getting office space from the UN. Is this proper?

Less than a quarter of those UNCA took $66,485 from attended this meeting; numerous Executive Committee members did not attend. Pioli bragged of "a larger number of sponsors," but the minutes did not list them. There'll be more on this.

  Meanwhile, UNCA leadership is proposal to downgrade some with "white" UN passed to "green," requiring them to go through a separate entrance and metal detectors. UNCA is responsible for Banning many from entry into the UN.

"UNCA room activities, press conferences and events for 2015" -- Pioli in his last tenure granted the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Palitha Kohona, a former tenant of Pioli in one of his Manhattan apartments, the use of UNCA to screen inside the UN a film denying Rajapaksa government war crimes. It was reporting about this that Pioli ordered Inner City Press to remove from the Internet. There have been no reforms since.

  Now UNCA brags that HRW will use or be used by its space. This is shameful - and we'll have more on it. Pioli sat in on the January 26 noon briefing, apparently to see if any of these outrages would be aired, typically asking no questions at all.

"Social media" - despite Ban's UN purporting to use UNCA to reach all journalists at the UN, the Press is blocked from UNCA's moribund social media presence. Is this attributable to all 15 Executive Committee members? Just Pioli?

 On January 23, Pioli said that the Reuters correspondent who grabbed two questions after Ladsous said "I don't respond to your questions Mister" is in charge of UNCA tweets.

"UNCA soccer" - this involved providing a craven photo op for, yes, Ban Ki-moon

"UNCA Awards 2015" - in December 2014, UNCA gave out an award about Haiti with no mention of the UN bringing cholera there, or UN peacekeepers shooting at democracy demonstrators. Ban Ki-moon was in attendance and they had him take pictures with another of their awardees, which was mischaracterized as  UN award. As with office space, it seems that UNCA sells the UN.

   Similar to the claim that UN labor issues are handed in happy one-way meeting with staff during country visits, it is with this that it seems the UN will partner to say it has listened on media access issues.

  After the September 2014 General Assembly week UNCA "minutes" and partial list of grievances were provided to FUNCA by one of UNCA's many disgruntled members. They are laughable. The ejection of non-French journalists from the UN Briefing Room was not mentioned, nor the physical blocking of filming.

  Instead, UNCA complains that there is too much news during the General Assembly -- they want fewer side events -- and apparently too many journalists at the UN: they want a private wi-fi password leaving the current open wi-fi only for "guests and others."

  Tellingly, one of the UNCA proposals is for a booklet co-signed by Ban Ki-moon and UNCA.

  With this bogus list and presumably seeking that booklet, they say that the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit proposes to meet only with their Executive Committee. This is akin to a fake wrestling match, in which the two sides pretend to fight, for an audience.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has told MALU, but repeats: if they even aspire to legitimacy, the UN must reach out to all journalists, at the UN and ideally beyond, and not that subset which pay UNCA money. That is a decidedly partial subset: a fake wrestling match.

 The UN while throwing out media from workspace gives its UN Censorship Alliance a large room, which it then limits to those that pay it money in dues. Here's how it works: a new media at the UN is told, from the pinnacle of the UN's Censorship Alliance, to pay UNCA $90 and UNCA will get the UN to give the media UN office space.

     Today's UN Censorship Alliance is unlikely to get any meaningful media access problem addressed -- members its Executive Committee have, in fact, caused or colluded in many of the decreases in access. They drafted a rule with MALU to eliminate journalist workspace at the Security Council stakeout; they withheld audio tapes and transcripts of a Ban "interview" with them, even from their own members.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access targeted these censorship practices in a September 29 flier, online, in the UN including on the "open" bulletin board it got the UN to install (the flier was torn down, one can only imagine by whom, but has gone back up.)

 

   The French-only briefing was described on HuffPost Live, here.)

Footnote: as noted the old UN Correspondents Association, which is given privileged status and set-aside first questions nearly always used for softballs, has done nothing in recent years to improve or even defend press access. In fact, members of UNCA's Executive Committee have tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, and there have been no reforms since. It's become the UN's Censorship Alliance. They provide Ban Ki-moon with photo ops playing soccer with them. This is today's UN - and FUNCA is fighting to hold the UN to its stated principles.



 

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