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For Covering Beheading of Assad Supporters, UNCA Troll Calls ICP Pro-Assad

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- From Reuters, Agence France Presse and Voice of America they went, from the UN to the Russian Mission on 67th Street at 5 pm on Tuesday, to watch a war reporter from Russian state media make an argument about Syria with slides.

  Depicted were beheadings and stories of mass rape -- this time by the armed opposition and not just the government. There was several reports of civilians accused of being pro Assad getting kidnapped, tortured and killed, in one case cut into 18 pieces.

  There was a time for questions; all but Agence France Presse asked something.

Inner City Press asked the reporter, Anastasia Popova, on what basis she said the chemical weapons used at Khan al-Asal were from the opposition. Eyewitnesses, she said. They told her the Free Syrian Army did it. Inner City Press also asked about media bias, a topic which Popova touched on, specifically criticizing Reuters along with Al Jazeera.

Afterward from a Starbucks on Third Avenue on the way to another event, Inner City Press wrote a quick story, noting that some said Popova's interviewees had been tortured and that UN probers from Paulo Pinheiro directly to chemical weapons investigator Sellstrom by omission had ignored what information Popova gathered in eight months in Syria.

Without including the names of the correspondents, Inner City Press noted -- because it was part of the story -- that "many in the audience were from Western media -- Reuters, Agence France Presse, Voice of America. Their questions were cagey: how did Popova get access to the opposition, since they hate Russia? Didn't she admit that at first the Syrian opposition was peaceful, popular and for democracy? (She didn't)."

Seven hours later, at two in the morning, an anonymous social media account associated with the UN Correspondents Association's Executive Committee opined -- unlike Inner City Press, concealing the author -- on Inner City Press' "excellent pro Assad propaganda, it's good you show your true colors and let us know who your sponsors are."

  We're all for snarky commentary; free speech includes even such a baseless allegation that whoever disagrees with you must be taking money.

  But it is shameful that big media scribes would have so little courage that they would hide their identity as trolls.

  These same have alternately claimed Inner City Press is in the pay of Rwanda, or of a defunct Sri Lanka terrorist group (this UNCA allegation gave rise to death threats - thanks!)

The more recent account is followed by another which calls itself the German Mission to the UN; that Mission has twice declined to state if this follower with its name is, in fact, affiliated with the German government."

  This account has included photographs taken in a room behind the UN Security Council stakeout; it has explicitly defended Reuters when Inner City Press, on the record, critiqued a story.

  Reuters including top editor Stephen J. Adler, its "social media editor" and a top columnist have been shown links between Reuters correspondent Michelle Nichols and these anonymous troll social media accounts -- but they have done nothing.

  The UN's Department of Public Information, which convened a February 22 meeting involving Inner City Press, for the Free UN Correspondents Association, and UNCA's president Pamela Falk and first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, heard of the fake social media accounts, one of which recently quoted approvingly a narrow definition of journalism put online by DPI's Stephane Dujarric. But nothing has been done.

It's come to this. Watch this site.

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