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ICP Asks UN's Hong, He Calls TPP & T-TIP ďDiscriminatory, Step BackwardĒ

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- Just as US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech in Washington State promoting the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, Inner City Press in New York asked UN official Pingfan Hong for the UN's view of the TPP.

  Pingfan Hong said that TPP would be a step backward from the multilateral process, and that it would be discriminatory against countries in the developing world. Video here.

  It was a rare "stand up to the US" moment in today's UN.  Earlier this month, as exclusively reported by Inner City Press, when Kerry told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon not to try to hold a Yemen talks in Geneva including the Houthis, Ban immediately acquiesced. But Pingfan Hong spoke his mind, here

  We have transcribed it:

Inner City Press: On trade policy, the big one right now is TPP, John Kerry is giving a speech about it, what is DESA's view, impact on US economy and world economy, should it be modified or disclosed?

UN's Pingfan Hong: About the TPP, from a UN or a DESA point of view, we donít consider that as a single issue. We analyze that issue from the perspective of the multilateral treaty system. That is, compare that with the WTO. From that point of view, itís kind of at best, TPP, itís paradoxical. For example, if you see those 20 areas covered, in this TPP, from e-commerce to other services, intellectual property rights, labor standards, environmental standards, indeed TPP sets a much higher standard than WTO negotiations.

From that youíll probably say itís a little bit forward looking, or itís more advanced. On the other hand you see, from a developing countryís point of view, both this Trans Pacific Partnership as well as this trans Atlantic, they are US and EU centric. So it's a set back actually, the progress made in multilateral trading system after World War Two it's backward from that point of view, means that your developing countries, they donít have much voice or bargaining power in this two, major, developed economy driven, this regional trade, the largest two trade agreements.

From UN point of view we are still in favor of the multilateral trading system of WTO, because any regional trade agreement, including these two biggest ones, definitely they do, they are discriminatory for a large number of non member countries. And to a large extent they are also undermining this multilateral treaty system in terms of theyíre working, not only trade, from other regions, but also divert the political efforts for many countries to work on this WTO trade negotiations, Doha round.

 Trade is just a means. Itís a means for development. So from a development point of view, we should focus on whether treaty negotiation can contribute to the development or not. Not just how much trade it would generate. So in that sense itís more complicated than just look at the single... I mean, we donít want to pay too much attention to the political debate, like now itís still ongoing, in the US on this issue.

 Meanwhile in Renton, Washington Kerry praised TPP with no acknowledgement of flaws such as the globalization of censorship under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, example here.

  That example, ironically, is by Reuters - a news wire one might think would oppose censorship.

 Back on January 15, 2014 on Capitol Hill, Fast Track for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership was promoted in the guise of a twenty-year review of NAFTA.

  The US Chamber of Commerce, Carla Hills and former Congressman David Dreier were among the pro Fast Track for TPP witnesses before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

  As Chairman Salman's introduction put it, "NAFTA has been the impetus for the regional bilateral trade agreements reached since then, and has provided important lessons as the U.S. seeks to build closer ties to trade and investment partners through the much anticipated Trans Pacific Partnership."

  After some perfunctory praise of NAFTA, and some unanswered questions about free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, things quickly turned to promotion of the TPP. The bill was introduced in Congress on January 9; it has been protested including in Harlem on January 4, 2014, here.

  The Senate Finance Committee press release is here, the bill is here, their summary here. It would globalize schemes like the pro-corporate Digital Millennium Copyright Act, misused by Reuters UN bureau chief to get a leaked document banned from Google's search.

   While free press protections are in some ways advanced in the United States, as the Free UN Coalition for Access has begun highlighting, the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be and has been used as an end-run attack on freedom of the press.

   Leaked documents used in an investigative story can be blocked, as the Reuters' complaint to Google blocked from Google's search its bureau chief's e-mail to the UN seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out. This is a perversion of the concept of copyright (as well as a contradictory argument for Reuters or anyone in journalism to be making, that such documents should be taken down or blocked.)

   In Chile, for example, any such take-down requires the requester to get a court order. But DMCA provides, and Google allowed, blocking based on a non-reviewed, bad faith complaint.

  As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about the case:

"Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse."

  Along with other pro-corporate provisions, TPP would internationalize this abuse of copyright to undermine freedom of the press. 

 If this remains precedent, what else could come down?

  Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:

The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here: http://www.innercitypress.com/reutersLC3unmalu.pdf

  But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed "never gave permission [for it] to be published." Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?

  Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered "private"? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.

  Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is "private" and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say, Reuters.com?

  The logic of Reuters' August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the ChillingEffects.org project, is profoundly anti free press.

  The fact that Google accepts or didn't check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn't made to InnerCityPress.com or its server -- it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.

  The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?

  Here is the text of Reuters' communication to the UN's top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU's manager, to which it claimed "copyright" and for now has banned from Google's Search:

Hi Isabelle and Stephane,

I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He's obviously gotten wind that there's a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn't know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I "disgust" him, etc.

In all my 20+ years of reporting I've never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He's become someone who's making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.

I just thought you should know this.

Cheers,

Lou
Louis Charbonneau
Bureau Chief. United Nations
Reuters News Thomson Reuters reuters. com

This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.

"UNCA" in the for-now banned e-mail is the United Nations Correspondents Association. The story developed here, as to Sri Lanka; here is a sample pick-up this past weekend in Italian, to which we link and give full credit, translated into English (NOT for now by Google) --

The fool of Reuters to the UN

by Mahesh - 12/27/2013 -calls for the removal of a letter from the head of his bureau at the United Nations, pursuing a copyright infringement on the part of the competition

Try to make out a small competitor from the UN press room and then, when these publish proof of intrigue, invokes the copyright to release a letter from compromising the network.

MOLESTA-AGENCY  Inner City Press is a small non-profit agency covering the work of the United Nations for years, with an original cut, which become distasteful to many. Unlike other matching its founder master sent never tires of asking account of inconsistencies and contradictions and often refers to unpleasant situations involving colleagues and their reportage, too often twisted to obvious political contingencies.

THE LAST CAVITY Ė In this case the clutch is born when Matthew Lee, Inner City Press ever since he founded and made famous in the 90 's, challenged the screening of "Lies Agreed Upon" in the auditorium of the United Nations, a filmaccio of propaganda in which the Sri Lankan regime tries to deny the now tested massacres (and destroyed by International Crisis Group). In the piece, in which denounced the incident, Lee also announced that the screening was organized by the President of the United Nations Correspondents (UNCA), Italian Giampaolo Pioli, skipping the normal consultation procedure for this kind of events. Pioli then, was also accused of being in a conflict of interest, given that he rented an apartment in New York an apartment to the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Sri Lanka, named Palitha Kohona and is suspected of war crimes.

TRY WITH THE COPYRIGHT- So he comes to the letter with which Louis Charbonneau, Reuters bureau chief at the United Nations, wrote to the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) calling for the ouster of Lee, which the UN being there for years as his colleagues, but we see that this was not done. Lee, however, comes into possession of the letter and publish it, and then writes to Google millantando Charbonneau the copyright on the letter and asking for removal pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That is a bit like if a company request the removal of a compromising document from a journalistic investigation, in the name of copyright, a claim clearly absurd and disingenuous.

HARASSMENT AND THREATS- In the letter published, Charbonneau complained about the aggressive behavior of Lee and cited among the witnesses to cases where Lee had been "aggressive" towards him even Pioli. Lee with that piece has gained throughout a hail of protests from Sri Lanka and an investigation by the UNCA, along with death threats and other well-known amenities the refugees away from the clutches of the regime, but it is still there. Behold then the brilliant idea of Charbonneau, improperly used copyright law to censor the objectionable publications to a colleague and competitor. Pity that Lee has already resisted successfully in similar cases, in 2008 was the same Google to remove your site from being indexed in the news in its search engines, it is unclear what impetus behind, only to regret it soon after that even Fox News had cried scandal.


 

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