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UN Protection of Journalists Absent in DRC, S. Sudan, Sri Lanka: HQ May 2

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- The UN says much about protecting journalists, but what does it do? It has a peacekeeping mission in the Congo -- but when journalist Blaise Bahisha was arrested in Goma by the Congolese authorities, the UN's partner, the UN said nothing.

Inner City Press on April 24 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about Bahisha's arrest, but there was no response, no “if-asked” from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous.

  While time did not permit at the April 24 noon briefing, Inner City Press had planned to ask about DPKO's silence in South Sudan, where it has a mission, even as Lakes State governor Mabor Achol Kuer says said, “those who are writing negatively about this state government will be crucified like Jesus Christ if we capture them.”

The UN Mission is closely aligned with the South Sudan government; there has been no response to this threat to “crucify” journalists.

  On April 23 in the UN Committee on Information, UNESCO spoke of a UN Plan to protect journalists, which would be much needed.

Not enough has been said about the editor in Mali facing charges for reporting on the windfall to coup leader Amadou Sanago.

  It's unclear what the UN did while a reporter was in danger in Central African Republic recently. And what of Prageeth, disappeared in Sri Lanka? These are only examples.


  And now on May 2, for World Press Freedom Day, the UN is holding an event. But beyond the contradiction listed above, the event itself has false notes.

  On the panel is the spokesman for DPKO chief Herve Ladsous. Not only has Ladsous openly refused to answer Press questions, for example about 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army, his partner -- his spokesman Kieran Dwyer has said, on camera, that Inner City Press questions will not be answered. What respect for freedom of the press. What a joke.

  Also on the panel, seemingly automatically but we'd say inappropriately, is Pamela Falk of CBS, the president of the UN Correspondents Association. Earlier this year, while the UN conducted a non-consensual raid on the Press' office, Falk was ghoulishly taking photographs.

  Then Falk issued a legal threat, through her e-mail account, to “cease and desist” even asking why she was taking photographs. Freedom of the press?

  The UN Department of Public Information conducted the raid; photographs taken while it was in control of Inner City Press' office, including photos of the Press' desk and bookshelf, were shared and leaked to BuzzFeed right after that publication contacted Ban Ki-moon's spokesman to ask about the raid.

  DPI has been asked again by the Free UN Coalition for Access to explain and make full disclosure on this, as a way of moving forward. We are waiting.

  UNCA, as noted and documented by ongoing Freedom of Information requests, spent much of 2012 trying to get the Press thrown out of the UN. Just last month, one of its Executive Committee members Tim Witcher of Agence France Presse filed a false complaint with the UN, leading with the claim that Inner City Press' question to Ladsous on March 8 about the Minova rapes as “abusive.” Also on the May 2 panel is Joel Simon of CPJ - which has a blind spot.

  UNCA first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters complained as well this year, about the content of Inner City Press' website - to UN Security. To try to use Security forces against a media for its content? This from UNCA's first vice president. Some freedom of the press. Some May 2 event. (There's slated to be another, more reform minded event on May 2). We'll have more on this.

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