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Backstory to U.N. Me Shows Content-Based Restrictions, as MALU Bans ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 4 -- Art may be long, but independent film is slower.

  It was three and a half years ago that Inner City Press wrote about the U.N. Me documentary, focusing on the UN's witch hunt to find out how the director Ami Horowitz got into the building and filmed scenes in the old Security Council. Click here for Inner City Press' November 21, 2008 story.

  Since then, and before last Friday's release of the film, Inner City Press continued delving into it and found that the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, charged with deciding on a content neutral basis on requests for access and accreditation, do not in fact act or think that way.

  Regarding U.N. Me, MALU's chief wrote that the lessons learned included

"don't grant accreditation to production companies who are doing documentaries on speculation until they have a letter from a broadcaster or film distributor... This way we can better check the focus of their production [and have] a better opportunity to check them out if we have any suspicions about their motivation."

Is it really the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit's job to condition access and accreditation on a journalist's "motivation" and the "focus" of their work?

Already under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this type of content based restriction is being accepted, even at the level of Under Secretary General. Last week Ban's top Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous on camera after Inner City Press asked questions about cholera in Haiti and he and Ban taking advice from alleged war criminal Sri Lanka general Shavendra Silva, told Inner City Press, "Well, Mister, I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and making malicious and insulting insinuations." The video, at Minute 28:10, is online at

Then on June 4, after three times last week telling Inner City Press its request for re-accreditation to cover the UN would be granted, on Monday MALU reversed course and declined to process the renewal request.

This comes after a June 3 article in the Sri Lanka government aligned newspaper Sunday Observer that "the United Nations Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) has initiated an inquiry against Inner City Press correspondent Matthew Russell Lee... The sources said if the allegations against Lee are proven, the UN headquarters will be made out of bounds for him."

While there are a number of collegial UN staffers in MALU, the Unit had already this year banned Inner City Press from covering whether meetings of the UN's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations continued to include the participation of Sri Lankan general and alleged war criminal Shavendra Silva.

Inner City Press based and bases its request for reconsideration in part on this:

I am writing now to renew my accreditation to cover the United Nations... I have become concerned that the current UN allows expulsion threats to media in order to censor critical coverage. So I am formally requesting that, today, my accreditation be extended -- for at least one year, but I am in context requesting a longer extension.

To explain this longer-than-one-year request, consider for example that... Ladsous on camera said he would refuse to answer my questions about the UN role in cholera in Haiti, and Sri Lankan alleged war criminal Shavendra Silva now advising Ban Ki-moon, because of my reporting.

In this context, it is imperative that you and the UN immediately provide a renewed accreditation for much more than one year.

That remains the request. 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

* * *

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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