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After Qatar Sentences Poet to Life, Ban Silent, Nothing from UNESCO

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 9 -- After Qatar imposed a sentence of life in prison on poet Mohammad Bin Al Dheeb Al Ajami for a single line in his paean to the Tunisian revolution, Jasmine, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman what Ban "think of a life sentence for a poet," since he was in Doha at the time.

  The spokesman, Eduardo Del Buey, replied that Ban "is aware of the case and is following it."

  But Ban hasn't said a word about the poet's life sentence, for writing that, "We are all Tunisia, in the face of the repressive elite."

  The poet's lawyer said the charges were, "inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime" and "criticizing the ruler," illegal under the Qatari penal code.

  Del Buey went on, as the UN Secretariat does more and more, to refer Inner City Press to an affiliate. He said, "We'll have to see. You might want to talk to UNESCO to see if they have anything on that."

  Inner City Press checked and wrote to the two top spokespeople of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization asking "does UNESCO have any comment on the treatment by Qatar of poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami?"

   Forty four hours later, not only has there been no response from UNESCO -- a Google News search for Qatar, poet, UNESCO find no comment at all.

   Back on September 7, 2012, Inner City Press covered a "freedom of the press" event sponsored by then President of the General Assembly (and now still UN official) Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser at which he intoned that "Freedom of information, which is a fundamental right inherent in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, became subject to threat and suppression."

  Inner City Press noted, "Qatar wants its hand in everything -- but will it promote a needed Freedom of Information rule at the UN? Does it protect journalists?"

   Certainly Qatar does not protect poets - quite the opposite. And Ban Ki-moon, and even the outsourced expresser of concern UNESCO, are quiet. Watch this site.

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