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With Ban Criticized on Press Freedom, UN Again Denies Getting Petition on Disappeared Journalist in Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 15 -- Two weeks after the UN acknowledged that a petition about a journalist's disappearance was transmitted to New York by its office in Sri Lanka, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky on Tuesday claimed “we here did not receive a petition yet. If there is such a petition.. we haven't seen it yet.” Video here.

  The UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is accused of not doing enough for press freedom, by the Committee to Protect Journalists and others. On February 15, CPJ's Bob Dietz told the Press that the UN has done “nothing” on the case of Lanka e-News journalist Prageeth Eknelygoda, whose wife has petitioned for Ban's involvement through the UN in Sri Lanka.

  When Inner City Press then asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to respond, he claimed for the second time in two weeks that the UN had not yet received the petition. There is a problem: after Inner City Press got this answer on January 31, the UN in Sri Lanka publicly confirmed it had received the petition. How could it not yet have reached New York?

  On January 31, as transcribed by the UN itself, Inner City Press asked Nesirky:

Inner City Press: recently there is a burning down of a publication, Lanka eNews, and various people said this is a crackdown on freedom of speech. There is also a petition that was delivered, I believe, to Mr. [Neil] Buhne in Colombo, seeking UN help to look into the case of a disappeared journalist for a year, Prageeth Ekneligoda, and I am wondering, that one has been sort of pending for a while, is there some… What is the UN’s response to what seems to many to be a crackdown or certainly increase of danger for journalists in Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, both of those, again, are questions that you sent by e-mail and should we have anything further, then we’ll let you know. But what I can tell you, the key point is that, freedom of the media is vital and journalists should be able to carry out their work without fear of attack or being harassed to do the work that they need to do.

Inner City Press On this petition [about] Prageeth, turned in by his wife, has it yet been confirmed that it was received by the UN in Colombo, and what happens with such petitions for UN assistance?

Spokesperson: Look, we checked. We’re not aware of a petition having been handed in. We’ll check again, but the latest that I had was that we are not aware of a petition having been handed in.

  After that, with no correction being provided to Inner City Press by Nesirky or anyone else in the UN, the UN in Colombo told a publication there that

A letter addressed to the Secretary General has been received by the Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne and is being forwarded to the Secretary Generals office,” the UN office in Colombo told the Daily Mirror. The UN in New York revealed earlier that it was unaware of the petition handed over by Sandya Eknaligoda on January 24. “We’re not aware of a petition having been handed in”, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Martin Nesirky had told a press briefing.

  The next day February 1 Nesirky's acting deputy Farhan Haq said at the UN noon briefing that

I have some answers to questions that were asked at yesterday’s Noon Briefing.We were asked about a letter concerning the treatment of a Sri Lankan journalist. I can confirm that we have now received the letter to the Secretary-General, which was transmitted to New York by the UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo. It was also channelled to colleagues in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The letter is now being reviewed.

  Then two weeks after Haq said publicly that the letter “was transmitted to New York by the UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo” and “ is now being reviewed,” Ban's spokesman Nesirky again denied that the petitioning letter was ever received. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked, what has Ban or the UN done about the petition about Prageeth?

  Nesirky answered that the UN is not just the Secretary General and that would check with UNESCO. He then said, “As I mentioned, we here did not receive a petition yet. If there is such a petition... we haven't seen it yet.” Video here.

UN's Ban & Nesirky in 2011: receipt of petitions denied questions limited

  In the rest of his noon briefing, Nesirky parried and dodged questions about criticism of Ban's lack of action on press freedom. Nesirky said, among other things, the Ban is “well briefed” on such issues, “not least by me.”

  But Nesirky wasn't even aware what his own deputy said about a petition about a disappeared journalist, and instead insisted that the petition was not received. Some briefing.

Footnote: the February 15 UN noon briefing ended with Nesirky telling Inner City Press he would take only one more question. Inner City Press said it had more than one question, but Nesirky insisted, only one (which he did not answer either). Video here, at end.

  Already pending for weeks in his office are questions about how Ban spoke with before claiming his panel could travel to Sri Lanka and praising President Mahinda Rajapaksa's “flexibility.” Further back, Nesirky simply refused to answer, or even pass along, questions about Ban's contacts with Rajapaksa, and the time of Ban's son in law in Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

* * *

As in Sri Lanka Media Is Burned Down, UN “Is Not Aware” of Petition about Disappeared Journalist, Silent for 1 Week

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 31 -- As in Sri Lanka the office of Lanka-e-News was burned down and the UN had no comment, nor would the UN on January 31 even confirm receipt of a petition from the wife of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, disappeared on January 24, 2010.

A year after the disappearance, January 24, 2011 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spoksman Martin Nesirky

What is the UN's response to this -

'The wife of a Sri Lankan journalist believed to have been abducted a year ago has urged the United Nations to help trace him, saying she believed the government was complicit in the crime. Prageeth Ekneligoda was critical of the government's conduct during its civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought for 25 years for an independent homeland. Prageeth's wife, Sandya, handed a letter to the world body's office in Colombo on Monday that accused the government of having no interest in finding her husband.'

Will the UN help? Does the UN have any response to this case, or the other unresolved attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka, including those Ban commented on but some say did not follow up on?”

  For an entire week, Ban's spokesperson's office refused to even confirm receipt of the question, which Inner City Press re-submitted each day. On the morning of January 31, Inner City Press asked:

What is the UN's comment and action on this - 'the arson attack on Lanka-e-News office located in Malabe, Colombo district... Benet Rupasinghe, news editor of, said his office was set on fire at around 2.00 a.m. by a group of unidentified persons who destroyed everything in the office...“It is not in a possible state to continue website operations,” he said. Last week priests and journalists appealed to the United Nations to find Prageeth Ekneligoda, a Lanka-e-News journalist who disappeared on Jan. 24 last year.'

Still requesting UN confirmation of receipt, and response to, this petition to the UN about the case of disappeared Prageeth Ekneligoda.”

  Still having no answer or confirmation of receipt, Inner City Press asked the questions in person at the January 31 UN noon briefing. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said “both are questions you sent by email.” Yes -- but they were never answered or even acknowledged.

  Earlier this month Nesirky ended a briefing (on January 21) by saying it would only take questions from Inner City Press if it “acted appropriately” -- apparently meaning, no questions about compliance with UN rules. Nor about Sri Lanka?

One year after Prageeth was disappeared, UN not shown

On January 31, Nesirky said he would see if there's anything further on the burning down of Lanka-e-News, that freedom of the media is vital, and that “we're not aware of a petition being handed in.”

The petition was reported in Columbo, in the Canadian Press and elsewhere. Major press freedom organizations have spoken of it, just as another belatedly prepares to speak out on the burning of Lanka -e-News. So the UN under Ban Ki-moon is not aware of it? Watch this site.

* * *

UN Belatedly Re-Confirms Ban Panel Blocked by Sri Lanka, Is Not Asked About Ban's Claims: No More Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- The UN, after moving to refuse to answer any Press questions about Sri Lanka, has decided to publicly re-confirm that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Accountability Panel is no longer slated to travel to Sri Lanka.
  As Inner City Press reported on January 18, this is contrary to Ban's December 17 praise of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's "flexibility" in allowing the visit, and to Ban's January 14 answer to Inner City Press. But the UN does not want to explain, or even be asked about, these accumulating discrepancies.

  On January 18, based on multiple conversation with UN insiders who insisted they not be named because if so they would be fired or further marginalized, Inner City Press reported that

insiders late on January 17 told Inner City Press that despite Ban's statement, his Panel will now probably NOT visit the Island. Despite Ban's December 17 announcement praising President Mahinda Rajapaksa's 'flexibility,' since then Rajapaksa's government has written to the UN to say not only that the Panel should not come, but that neither the government nor its Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Panel will speak with the UN Panel of Experts. It is expected now that representatives of the Rajapaksa government will, in New York only, speak with Ban Ki-moon's Office, not his Panel.”

  Alongside publishing this news, Inner City Press publicly asked Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky about it at the January 18 UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: ...the Panel does not go to Sri Lanka. That in fact letters have been exchanged and that a letter from Sri Lanka says that there’s no intention to speak to the Panel.

Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that Ms. Bragg’s visit it obviously a humanitarian visit. It is not related to work of the Panel. It is not. And I think that’s quite clear.

Question: What happens now? What will she do with it, as a humanitarian individual?

Spokesperson: She will be talking about humanitarian matters.

Question: Only about the rains, not about what caused the need to return? ... there’s some question about the visas for an accountability purpose, what the relation of this visa would be…

Spokesperson: As I said, the two are not connected. This is clearly a humanitarian matter. Last question.

  Apparently Nesirky is trying to carry this out, making that the “last question.”

  The next day on January 19, Nesirky twice cut off Inner City Press from asking questions at the UN noon briefing, claiming he would answer questions put to him in writing.

  Inner City Press posed a number of Sri Lanka questions about the visas and Ban Ki-moon, none of which Mr. Nesirky answered.

  On January 20, Nesirky walked out of the briefing room while Inner City Press was still posing questions about the white flag killings in connection with an article including the role of Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who has said he got assurances from Sri Lanka Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona that those with white flags would not be killed.

  Nesirky spoke of a reply from Mr. Nambiar, which has yet to be provided.

   Finally on January 21, Nesirky told Inner City Press at the noon briefing that “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner,” and refused to take any more of questions Inner City Press had prepared, including Sri Lanka and Ban's statements about his Panel. Colloquially, this "sucked," and Inner City Press quickly wrote about it.

Later on January 21, in what is still labeled an “exclusive,” FP ran this quote:

'The Sri Lankan mission had initially indicated they would be amenable to the panel meeting with it to make whatever representations it may wish to make, but it seems now that such a visit has still not been decided,' said a senior U.N. official. 'I am not sure if this is a simple matter of the Sri Lankan side prevaricating. The panel is nevertheless open and keen on any appropriate interaction with the LLC. The Sri Lankans have sought to keep their interaction through the secretariat, specifically the EOSG [the executive office of the secretary general],' the official said. 'We have, however, been asking them and the panel to deal with each other directly and shall continue to do so.'”

  This is how Ban's UN, especially but not only Ban's Spokesperson's Office, operates.

  A major question still unanswered, but repeatedly asked by Inner City Press publicly in the noon briefings at which Nesirky on January 21 said he will take no more questions from Inner City Press, is why Ban Ki-moon claimed on December 17 that his Panel would go to Sri Lanka.

  At that time, Ban went out of his way to praise President Mahinda Rajapaksa's “flexibility.” Nesirky has repeated refused to answer Inner City Press' factual questions about Ban's, his entourage and family's contacts with Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa.

  After Ban's January 14 “monthly” press conference, at which Nesirky did not take any questions from Inner City Press, Inner City Press waited at the entrance to the briefing room and asked Ban why his panel wasn't going to Sri Lanka, and minutes later published Ban's answers:

Mister Secretary General, you said your Panel is going to Sri Lanka,” Inner City Press asked, “what happened?”

Ban Ki-moon replied, “They are now working very seriously on finalizing the dates of visiting Sri Lanka.”

Inner City Press asked about “the government has said they can only talk to the LLRC, that they can't investigate anything.”

Ban Ki-moon replied, “They will be able to... They are now discussing that.”

  Now, after Inner City Press publicly asked and wrote about the letters between Sri Lanka and the UN which contradict what Ban has said, and after Nesirky said he will not take any more questions from Inner City Press, a “senior UN official” issues the above-quoted, without any reference to Ban's December 17 (and January 14) claims. Watch this site.

 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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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