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Day Late on Minova, Anti-Press VOA Uses Mic Grabbing Ladsous Spox, FUNCA Objects

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- After the UN admittedly gave its answer to Inner City Press' April 11 question about the 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army to Reuters and AFP before responding to Inner City Press a full day later, Inner City Press formally objected. Transcript here, and below.

  And after that, the most derivative of state media, Voice of America, chugged in with the same story, no critique of the UN, just a different Ladsous spokesman.

  Ironically Ladsous took all three scribes -- VOA's Margaret Besheer, Reuters' Louis Charbonneau and AFP's Tim Witcher -- out into the hallway with him on November 27, after refusing on camera to answer Inner City Press' questions about the Minova rapes. Video here.

  Then on December 18, the spokesman today quoted by VOA's Besheer, Andre-Michel Essoungou, followed Ladsous' direction to seize the UN Television microphone to try to avoid Inner City Press' questions about the rapes. Video here.

Supposedly, UN official Stephane Dujarric spoke to Essoungou about the seizure of the mic of UNTV, which Dujarric is supposed to oversee. But nothing was ever said publicly, further emboldening Ladsous.

  It was to Dujarric that at Besheer's urging Voice of America's Steve Redisch wrote on June 20, 2012 asking that Inner City Press' accreditation be “reviewed.” Besheer wrote that her colleagues at Reuters and AFP were included to go the same route, with the same "tenor."

  Dujarric and those above him in the Department of Public Information have yet to institute any rules of due process for such complaints, thereby encouraging frivolous stealth complaints like those filed March 8, 2103 by AFP's Witcher and Charbonneau's underling at Reuters, Michelle Nichols.

  Witcher went so far as to complaint to UN Security about how Inner City Press asked Ladsous a question about the Minova rapes. Something is deeply wrong in the UN and this part of its press corps, and their enablers and wannabe friends.

Footnote: at the Broadcast Board of Governors, which purports to oversee VOA, Dana Perino is leaving, and Matthew C. Armstrong is nominated to take her seat.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from BBG showed Perino to at least be asking questions about Redisch and David Ensor's censorship moves. But will she now speak out? Will Armstrong?

BBG has been sitting more months on a FOIA request it (or Besheer, intentionally) mishandled. Now another request has been made. Watch this site.

From the UN's April 12 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Eduardo, I wanted to ask you about your statement on the Minova rapes.

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Yes?

Inner City Press: I asked yesterday, you said you would get back, and here you are at the next noon briefing with it. So, I wanted to ask you two questions about it and something about process. One, when you say several have been arrested, yesterday I asked you whether that means three, and the way it is reported, a sub-lieutenant, a corporal and a soldier of no rank. So does it remain the fact that only three people have been arrested for 126 rapes? And I also wanted to ask you to name, finally name the battalions. There has been a lot of back and forth, or DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] wouldn’t name the battalions until… now, it seems like it has reached a stage, so I wanted to know if you could give the numbers. And on process, I wanted to ask you, although I appreciate you reading out the statement today, I obviously saw last night and today stories on Reuters and AFP [Agence France-Presse] where Kieran Dwyer of DPKO chose to, in fact, give precisely this answer, maybe a little less, to favored media, and I wonder, what does it say? I want to know, I guess, how is it acceptable…

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Matthew, Matthew, let me stop you right there.

Inner City Press: Please. Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson: There is no question of favored media. The media…

Inner City Press: What happened?

Deputy Spokesperson: The media involved telephoned DPKO yesterday afternoon. We had just received this information on an if-asked basis, and DPKO gave it to them in response to their questions.

Inner City Press: And not to the person who asked the question here? That’s what I don’t understand.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well…

Inner City Press: This happened about three or four times, so that’s why I am using the phrase. And I want to say to you, if I asked a question here and you have an answer to it, please give it to me at least at the same time that you give it to others. Otherwise, it looks like an attempt to favor media that didn’t ask the question, or who write very favouable stories. For example, is this issue, Mr. Ladsous for four months didn’t answer any questions on these rapes. Now, belatedly after a BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] exposé, there is this announcement, and the question is, what follow-up is there going to be? Is Ban Ki-moon comfortable with Mr. Ladsous’ addressing of these 126 rapes?

Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew, the answer we gave you over the past few months was that, while an investigation was in progress we were not going to be commenting on the aspects of the investigation. As I said here, the investigation has been launched, over 400 testimonies have been received, several arrests have been made, and a number of those officers allegedly involved have been suspended and put at the disposal of the military prosecutor. So, the investigations continue apace, they are in the hands of the military prosecutor. You may want to contact the military prosecutor’s office in Kinshasa to find out what they are doing about it and what more information they have.

Inner City Press: Which battalions?

Deputy Spokesperson: I cannot give you that information.

Inner City Press: Why not?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have it.

Inner City Press: What I am really emphasizing to you, you’re the Spokesman’s Office. If a question is asked here, now that you said that you had the answer, I would really encourage you to give the answer to the people that ask the questions. It just seems like a set-up, and this happened literally three or four times in a row. I can see exactly what is happening and I object to it.

Deputy Spokesperson: We’ve heard you, Matthew.

Inner City Press: Thank you very much.

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