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UN Silent on Press Bans in Myanmar & Yemen, Claims Spoke May 2 on Ethiopia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 -- Today's UN is often silent as journalists are deported or censored; now its Office of the Spokesperson claims to have made statements that were never heard.

   On May 9 Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked about attacks on press freedom in Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia. Video here.

   On the first two, the UN had no comment. On the last, the UN inserted into the transcript a claim it had said something on May 2. But the statement was neither in the UN's transcript of that day, nor was it sent to Inner City Press. From UN's May 9 transcript:

Inner City Press: And on press freedom, can I ask these questions? Ok, I wanted to ask you… and see whether there’s a comment on any of these. One is, Yemen has deported a journalist named Adam Baron, who was described as one of the few foreign correspondents in the country, and I wanted to know if the Secretariat or Mr. Benomar has any comment on that?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: I don’t have any comment on that at this stage, no.

Inner City Press: Myanmar has deported a journalist called Angus Watson for supposedly reporting on media freedom protest. Is Mr. Nambiar or the UN Secretariat have any comment on that?

Deputy Spokesman: Again, at this stage there’s no comment. We’d have to look at what the details of the case are.

Inner City Press: And Ethiopia has jailed and US based twitter has suspended the accounts of the so-called Zone9 bloggers that I asked here about a week ago. Since there’s a UN office in Addis, I’m wondering, are they aware of this arrest of journalists and now suspensions of their accounts or on what basis that would have been?

Deputy Spokesman: I believe we have some language on this, but I don’t have it with me right now. But we’ll try to share that with you, if we’ve got it.

[The Spokesperson had said the following on 2 May 2014:

Matthew, you asked earlier this week about journalists in Ethiopia. I want to draw your attention to a statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued today. In it, Navi Pillay says she is deeply concerned by this recent wave of arrests and the increasing climate of intimidation against journalists and bloggers prevailing in Ethiopia. Pillay also notes that the Ethiopian authorities continue to use the Charities and Societies Proclamation Law, the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Mass Media Law to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. She says that the fight against terrorism cannot serve as an excuse to intimidate and silence journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and members of civil society organizations. And that working with foreign human rights organisations cannot be considered a crime. You can see her full statement online.]

But here is the UN's May 2 transcript, which does not contain any of that. Nor did Inner City Press receive that by email. This same claim to have sent an answer happened earlier this week on a supposed response about UN Peacekeeping moving Ghanaian soldiers weapons by road. So it goes at the UN.


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