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As Press Pushed from UN Council, Protests to Ban, "Tear Down This Wall!"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 6, updated -- "Mr. Ban, tear down this wall!" A long time UN correspondent said this Tuesday morning, loudly, in protest of the press corps being pushed away from the Security Council's new location in the UN basement. On Monday, Inner City Press was informed that in a closed Council consultation, a proposal was made to push non-Council member states out into the hallway, and push journalists even further back.

  Following questions posed to UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe at Monday's noon briefing, then to April's Council president Yukio Takasu of Japan, the UN Correspondents Association put together a letter of protest, to be handed alongside Tuesday Council meeting on Iraq to President Takasu and the Ambassadors of the Permanent Five members of the Council.

  But with the press corps penned in far back from the stairs, even the letters of protest could not be handed to Ambassadors as they entered. U.S. Ambassador Rice strode in. Even as reporters called out, "We have a letter for you," she smiled bemused and continued into the Council chamber. Later a spokesman accepted the letter.

UN's Ban, US' Susan Rice, Patricia O'Brien and team, press access not shown

   UK Deputy Permanent Representative Parham came over and took the letter himself. Russia's Dolgov accept it, asking, "Is it in Russian?" Long after the meeting began, Council President Takasu had still not been served. Nor had the Chinese mission. This job was left to Inner City Press.

Update of 2 p.m. -- Inner City Press gave the letter to President Takasu, when he came to speak to the Press after consultations on Iraq, Guinea Bissau, the DRC and Somali piracy. After the issue was raised to other non-Permanent Council members like Brazil and Uganda, it was said that Ambassador Takasu as President raised it as a "housekeeping" matter.
   At the stakeout, he said again therre should be equivalent access. Inner City Press asked President Takasu, and before him UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, about even UN Peacekeeping staffers being now excluded from the Council consultation room. Ms. Okabe conceded that such presence had been "useful." Ambassador Takasu did not ask that question when asked, reverting to the Press question, saying further consultations will be had. Only at the UN. Watch this site.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Ambassador Takasu,

I'm writing to you in your capacity as the President of the Security Council on behalf of the U.N. Correspondents Association to express our serious concern about proposed restrictions on press access to Council members outside their new meeting area. The proposed limiting of reporters to a narrow strip of floor on the side of the stairs with no right to ascend or descend the staircase would represent an unprecedented and unacceptable curtailing of the ability of reporters to follow delegates in and out of Council gatherings – and to do their job. We understand that several permanent members of the Security Council voiced their concerns about press access to delegations and support reducing our access under the guise of improving their delegates' "safety". The moves to implement unjustifiable restrictions are taking place alongside attempts to shut out U.N. member states that are not currently on the Security Council and the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Our position is clear. Any attempt to use the move and/or safety concerns as a pretext to institute unprecedented and unnecessary limitations on press access to the delegations is unacceptable to UNCA members since it would further reduce the transparency of the most powerful body within the United Nations. It is ironic that the very council whose members have jointly and individually criticized governments around the world for not allowing a free press to operate in their countries have suddenly gotten into the business of curtailing a free press at UN headquarters.

Once again, we expect that the conditions we had prior to the move will be replicated to the full extent possible without any new restrictions being arbitrarily imposed on our freedom of movement throughout the building -- restrictions that were imposed on us unilaterally, without prior consultation and in complete disregard of the Council's long history of making interested delegates available to accredited journalists. That does not mean we oppose roping off designated areas to allow reasonable corridors for diplomats and U.N. officials to comfortably enter and leave meetings. But it does mean that we must continue to have access to all stairs and escalators as has been the case for nearly six decades. U.N. delegates are free to decline to comment to any reporter as they wish. We are all professionals and will respect those wishes.

We appreciate your advocating for us and your stated commitment to replicating the conditions of the old stakeout area as much as possible. We are confident that you are among those who appreciate that a free press is one of the key building blocks of democracy throughout the world.

We have sent a copy of this letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in charge of managing the building and has repeatedly stated his commitment to a free press worldwide.


UNCA President

CC: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Permanent Representatives of the Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States

Under-Secretary-General Kiyotaka Akasaka

H.E. Ali Treki, President of the General Assembly

Watch this site.

Footnote: UNCA also has a long outstanding request for a briefing by top UN lawyer Patricia O'Brien, on topics ranging from the UN's involvement in the trial of Somali pirates in Kenya to the Hariri tribunal to that in Cambodia. But Ms. O'Brien has not come. Here's how it was raised in a recent UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: This is a question both about Kenya and about, it’s a question on behalf of UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association], believe it or not, the second part of it, first is that -- you will see how they’re related.

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: A question on behalf of UNCA?

Inner City Press: You’re going to see how they’re related. The first is, Kenya has announced that it’s seeking to give six months’ notice to terminate its agreement with the UN to prosecute Somali pirates that are caught by nations. And here is the UNCA part of it, is that UNCA -- and I am saying this as authorized by the annual meeting and by a recent meeting -- Patricia O’Brien, who is the head lawyer of the UN, travelled to the region and is obviously involved in the process. She was asked in writing by UNCA, in a letter, to come and give a briefing on that topic, the [Rafik] Hariri Tribunal, matters of general interest that she works on for the UN, and there has been no response to the letter at all. Two others that were invited have come: Helen Clark and Kim Won-soo. So I wanted, UNCA has voted to reiterate to have Ms. O’Brien come.

Associate Spokesperson: Our Office has been in touch with Ms. O’Brien, who has often expressed her willingness to speak to the press. So we will try to talk to her again about when such a meeting can be scheduled. That shouldn’t be a problem.

But it has been a problem, for months. Mr. Ban, tear down this wall!

* * *

At UN, Security Council Moves to Push All But 15 Nations into the Hall, Cut Press Access: Turf Wars

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 -- Outside the first consultation meeting in the new UN Security Council chamber, both reporters and members states not on the Council were Monday in disarray, on the verge of losing even more access.

  A representative of UN Security Council Affairs told Inner City Press that the media will be moved further back, where they can't even see Council members enter. And member states other than the 15 Council members will be relegated to an open hallway by the stairs, under the plan.

  The UN representative said that Council members complained of "involuntary interation" with the press and even other member states "like India and Germany," wanting a way to leave without seeing either. Inner City Press countered that the media, and non-Council member states, must be consulted, but was told to quiet down.

  In what passes for news, in the beginning of the month consultations led by April's Council president, Yukio Takasu of Japan, the U.S. asked for a briefing about the elections in Sudan. Since U.S. envoy Scott Gration is in Khartoum appearing to praise the process as "as fair as possible," the U.S.'s request struck some as strange.

  Nigeria requested a briefing about the chaos in Guinea Bissau, in which the police arrested the Prime Minister last week. Apparently Myanmar will not be discussed. Ambassador Takasu will hold a press conference later on Monday. Watch this site.

  The background: After its final March meeting, the Council was moved from its longtime location on the second floor to a suite of rooms in the UN's basement.

There are no windows, but the UN says it is secure, safer than Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office atop the boxlike Temporary North Lawn Building.

But outside the Council, everything has changed. The suite of rooms has a closed metal door and a sign, "Consultation in session, Security Council members only."

This seems to mean that Permanent Representatives of member states not among the Council's 15 members -- including for example India, Germany and South Africa, to name a few -- can't even go into the Council's lounge, as for years they did upstairs.

Some Security Council reform -- getting less rather than more inclusive.

A stakeout with the 15 Council members' flags has been set up where the Vienna Cafe used to be. It is at some remove from the Security Council doors; members can leave by the stairs or garage without walking by the stakeout.

The new UNSC chamber under construction

Monday morning, reporters milled around between the stairs and the Council doors. Spokespeople of only two of the Council's members, one permanent and one in its second of two years on the Council, deigned to speak to the press scrum. By 10:15, Inner City Press was the only media left, on a rickety chair without a table by the stairs. Several Permanent Representatives asked Inner City Press how to get into the Council. "Through the General Assembly," was the reply. Watch this site.

* * *

In Central Asia, UN Ban Blind to Corruption, Skips Prisoners Rights and Water Wars

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- As the UN's Ban Ki-moon traipses Central Asia, what of political prisoners, UN hiring scandals and simmering cross border conflicts? Apparently for the UN Secretary General, these don't exist. Before Ban started his trip, Inner City Press asked why the UN was not even to solve the dam-based conflict between Tajkistan and Uzbekisan. Don't call it a conflict, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. What what should it be called? 
     As Inner City Press has reported, Uzbekistan opposes the Tajik dam so much it shut the country's border. Why isn't the vaunted Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia involved?

  A UN source alleging corruption in the UNRCCA notes

On the website of the Center, there is not a single word about the Dam. but there is a tender announcement for the fitness equipment for the gymnasium at the UNRCCA building - the former elite Demiryolchy Hotel. The question is whether the procurement of the fitness equipment is reconciled with the UN budget rules and regulations, or whether it is a good UN background for the unsolved Dam conflict. the left click Tenders

At Tnders page you could see translation: The Regional UN Center (UNRCCA) announces the tender: Fitness equipment for the gymnesium) is set of pictures.


Miloslav Jenca (Slovakia), SRSG and head of UNRCCA, has published an article “Developments in Central Asia and the role of the UNRCCA” in International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy AffairsIssue no.02 /2009, Publisher: Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (RC SFPA)

The curiosity is that it can be read only if the reader would pay 25 Euro (€) in advance (from each the price of Jenca’s article would be taken). Click here. the UN staff in general and of Jenca’s status in particular are not supposed to publish the UN related staff for money (not saying about other connotations).

Turkmenistan would be the first country in the SG tour – 2 April (would SRSG Jenca inform the SG of the fitness equipment tendered – especially of the ball to play at the beach?

  In the Fall of 2009, Inner City Press asked and was given the run-around about a hiring scandal in this Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. Inner City Press posed this question in writing:

In a message dated 8/27/2009 3:50:47 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, montas [at] writes:
Please refer your DPA questions to Jared Kotler
  I've been referred to you for a response to the allegations below concerning hiring in the Regional Center in Turkmenistan (the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia).Also, please tell me when Jan Egeland's job with DPA ended, what he did during his tenure and how much he was paid.
on the RCPDCA, while here is more to this story, but let's start on deadline with confirmation or denial of the below:
During 2005-2007 Mr. Miloslav Jenca, Slovakia , worked in Tashkent as the OSCE Head of Office/OSCE Project Co-coordinator in Uzbekistan together with Ms. Polina Pomogalova , Uzbekistan , as his local general support staff:

Mr.Jenca at OSCE, Uzbekistan

Ms. Polina Pomogalova at OSCE, Uzbekisan, page 3

 In December 2007 the UNRCCA ( United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia) was inaugurated by Lynn Pascoe, DPA in Ashgabat.

In April 2008 Mr. Miloslav Jenca was appointed UNRCCA Head and SRSG, (“…Mr.. Jenca, currently the Director of the Office of Slovakia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, recently served as head of mission for the OSCE centre in Tashkent , Uzbekistan …”) 

Soon after this Ms. Polina Pomogalova was appointed the Personal Assistant to the SRSG Jenca at UNRCCA: see the UNRCCA web site: 

“…Ms. Polina Pomogalova, Personal Assistant to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Ambassador Jenca…”

Question: How could it be that Polina Pomogalova without a single day of the UN experience was shortlisted for an interview by PMSS while other candidates with the extensive UN experience in Central Asia and technically cleared to the positions of this category were not included? How could it be that the UNRCCA interview board recommended exactly Polina Pomogalova? The answer seems clear: she was the protégé of SRSG Jenca and it was he who had arranged everything.

  Again, there is more to this story, but let's start on deadline with what is the UN's / DPA's . the Center's response?

  The majority of the above was simply never responded to, just as the UN's Department of Political Affairs refused to respond to or address nepotism and hiring scandals in its Africa II unit and the Central African Republic. This lack of accountability extends to the UN's approach to human rights.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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

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