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After VOA & UNCA Seek to Oust ICP from UN, Legal Notification

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- The five Big Media representatives on the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee who started a "Board of Examination" probe of Inner City Press a month ago claimed that was not to oust the Press from the UN.

  But on June 20 the executive editor of one of the Five, Voice of America, filed a complaint with the UN seeking just that: a review of the status of Inner City Press' accreditation to the UN, based entirely on things the Press has written. Click here for full text of VOA complaint to the UN.

  Eight days later, the UNCA Executive Committee & Board of Examination have received a legal letter notifying them of violations of free speech, free press and due process: click here to view.

  Precipitating this letter was word that this Board of Examination would issue its report, without even having informed Inner City Press of the charges against it, on Friday, June 29, unless Inner City Press agreed to blanket apologies and even a censorship commitment not to ever write about other media organizations.

  On June 21 Inner City Press told the four remaining members of the Board of Examination that this VOA complaint and challenge to its livelihood made it nearly impossible to continue discussions with UN Correspondents Association president Giampaolo Pioli about how to "clarify" the fact that he rented his apartment to Palitha Kohona, then a UN official, now Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN.

  Pioli in September 2011 granted Kohona's request to screen inside the UN a Sri Lankan government propaganda film called "Lies Agreed To," which purports to rebut a UK Channel 4 documentary that was NOT screened inside the UN.

  On the podium were only Kohona, Pioli, and alleged war criminal Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, who subsequently became an adviser to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on peacekeeping operations.

   These are facts; the UNCA Executive Committee on June 14 issued a letter "for UNCA members only" which is now their response to the media and which claims Inner City Press never objected to the "Lies Agreed To" screening.

That is false.

  Inner City Press has shown the Executive Committee and now the Board of Examination that "before the screening, Inner City Press wrote to Pioli, Charbonneau, Voice of America's Margaret Besheer and others about 'the UNCA screening of the Sri Lankan government's rebuttal to Channel 4's "Killing Fields": -- I don't remember any email asking if that screening should happen in the UN auditorium, given that the underlying Channel 4 film not not shown in the UN.'"

   The circulation of an "UNCA members only" letter, with this falsehood, and the failures to explain or act on the VOA / UNCA attempt disaccredit me and deny me my livelihood, have come to the fore.

   And so here is the UNCA Board of Examination's June 25 inquiry, and Inner City Press' response:

Dear Matthew, A few days ago, as chair of the Board of Examination of the UN Correspondents Association's Executive Committee I asked if you had any submission's for the panel. There was no response.

June 21 you responded to a verbal invitation from other board members and you met with the remaining four of us.

At the end of the 2.5 hour session you said you would give us a proposal on ending the confrontation between the Executive Committee and you. The board members left with the understanding there would be a cooling off period marked with an absence of charges and counter charges by both sides. That apparently was not the case. Are you going to submit anything more to us?


William M. Reilly, Chair
Board of Examination, UNCA

cc: board members

   Inner City Press immediately responded and asked questions that have yet to be answered:

I am surprised by this message. First, on June 21 you said that given the Voice of America / Margaret Besheer written request to the UN that it review my accreditation, you understood that addressing that threat to my livelihood, which I ascribe to the UNCA Executive Committee and this process that you continue to chair, came first.

What can you tell me has been done in that regard?

I was told on Thursday to draft (or even just "think") about possible clarifications, and that I have done. I was told it was understandable I would just not submit such drafts in writing -- as I told you, a reporter was misled by the UNCA Executive Committee, based on a prior draft submission I made, that I had signed an apology.

Speaking of reporters, and VOA, I wish to bring this to your attention, and I paste it below:

You say that before June 21 you asked if I "had any submission's for the panel. There was no response."

When and how are you saying your request was made? While the membership in the Board of Examination has repeatedly shifted, I have made a number of submissions, of questions that I contend must be examined, and of my right to be informed of the charges and witnesses against me, before the 10 day period can begin.

What are the charges? Who are the witnesses? And who will rule on the conflicts of interest and disqualifying pre-judgments that I have identified?

I am covering the current Security Council debate on the Protection of Civilians, at which among others Sri Lanka (which I cover) is about to speak... I request your responses in writing; I made a similar request to the UNCA Executive Committee, to which they have not responded at all.  I ask that you respond in writing to the points above. Thank you in advance.

Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press

And so, the legal letter has been filed. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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