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At Turkey's "UN" Presser, ICP Asks of Strikes on Kurds, Is Told Don't Interfere

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 1 -- Three days after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu assure Inner City Press about press freedom in Turkey, the country held a staged press conference in the UN with questions selected in advance, then told Inner City Press, "Don't interview." Video here.
  Turkey's Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu, Minister for Foreign Affairs along with Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland, were slated for a 9:30 am press conference about mediation. Inner City Press prepared questions on Somaliland, Yemen and Burundi - then found that Turkey had already selected the (only) two questions.

 The first was a softball for Turkey to say that only airstrikes on ISIS in Syria are legitimate. But what about Turkey's own strikes on Kurds? This is the question Inner City Press tried to ask at the end. But the delegation pulled out. Inner City Press said, You should just do it in your Mission. But perhaps, as with the previously day's Syrian Coalition scam "UN" presser, they should have done it in the UN Censorship Alliance (UNCA) clubhouse. We'll have more on this.

  As Turkey's media crackdown continues, at least on some, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access on September 28 asked Prime Minister Ahmet Davotoglu about the Vice News translator not release with his two colleagues, and about threats to shut down Twitter in the country. Video here.

Davutoglu replied that journalism is legal but terrorism is not. Inner City Press moved to ask, how defines that? Or, is it terrorism to interview a “terrorist”? But the microphone had been grabbed, tellingly, by a representative of UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance. This group got the first question to Davutoglu, but did not ask about press freedom (as it did, at least one, on Egypt). Apparently there is a veto system at work.

  Inner City Press also asked Davutoglu about Turkey's role in Libya. On this, he said that Turkey has tried to assist UN envoy Bernardino Leon (soon to be replaced by Martin Kobler) and that Turkey is OK with the EU NAVFOR. We have another story on that, here.

On September14 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press / FUNCA: you were asked before about the VICE News staff, two of whom were released.  I wanted to know if you have any further thoughts on the third continued… the Dutch journalist that's now threatened with deportation, Frederike Geerdink, on the same…?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of the situation with the Dutch journalist.  Obviously, we would hope, we'll try to get more details of what's going on with the VICE journalist.  But, we'd hoped that he would either be released or face an open and transparent judicial process. 

  Hasn't heard of the case?

After three Vice News journalists were arrested in Turkey on terrorism charges, for merely reporting on a conflict, Inner City Press on September 1 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the arrests, and he said Ban's was still "trying to harvest more details." Audio here, video here and embedded below.

  Dujarric repeated it on September 2. On September 3 after the two British journalists were released but the Iraqi, a translator or "fixer," was still being held, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: the last two days, you've been asked about the case of Turkey locking up these two British VICE News journalists and their Iraqi translator.  You said that you were harvesting more facts.  The two British journalists have been released.  The Iraqi translator remains detained.  Have you harvested the facts necessary --

Spokesman:  Obviously, we've seen the release of the two VICE News journalists, which is obviously good.  We hope that the person who's with them is also offered due process, and we continue to look into the facts.

Inner City Press: it seemed like it's basic that journalists covering a conflict have to speak with both sides.  I don't know if you found different, but the basis of the charges against all three was simply that they reported on the other side…

Spokesman:  As I said, it is vital that journalists be able to do their work freely, especially in war zones.

  So, Ban and his allies managed to not make any comment, beyond a wan call for "due process" rather than release. We'll have more on this.

  What's so complicated? Journalists actually covering a conflict need to speak with both or all sides, and shouldn't be charged with terrorism for doing so.

Here's InnerCityPro's fast transcript:

ICP: there have been these arrests in Turkey of journalists from VICE News, two journalists and their translator, and there's also been a raid of a company called Koza-Ipek Media in Ankara.  I wanted to know, what does the Secretary-General and the Secretariat think of these arrests of journalists reporting on conflict?
UN Spox: We’re obviously aware of the issue regarding Vice News. We’re looking into it. The reports as they stand are troubling. We’re trying to harvest more details before expressing an opinion. I think the Secretary General has come out rather forcefully, notably in the last few days, on the situation of the Al Jazeera journalists and others in Egypt, and that there is a need for governments to ensure that journalists are able to work freely. I would say especially in zones of conflicts, where the risks of journalists are already high enough as they are.

Inner City Press: The US Department of Defense put out a handbook requiring journalists to register. Does the Secretariat…

A: Listen, I haven’t seen the Department of Defense book that you’re referring to. Obviously I think it also helps for policies to be put in place for journalists to ensure the safety of journalists, there’s always an equilibrium that needs to be found, and I’m sure there’s a healthy dialogue between the department of defense and the accredited  journalists at the Pentagon, and I will not get into it.

  The Vice News journalists at issue are Jake Hanrahan, Philip Pendlebury and translator Mohamed Ismail Rasool. In Ankara, Koza-Ipek Media has also been raided; Inner City Press asked the UN about that too.

  We note that the UN will hold its World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey in 2016 -- Ban spoke about it earlier on September 1 - and even has a Turkey-sponsored "Turkish Lounge" next to the Security Council, in an area that use to be journalist work-space. Those who would supposedly speak on this at the UN have been muted. But the question has been asked, and the Free UN Coalition for Access, see below, will follow up.

 Three day before on August 29, amid news that Egypt imposed prison sentences on Al Jazeera journalists Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, at 5 pm in New York while the UN had still said nothing at all, the US State Department said it was disappointed.

  Then at 10:30 pm in New York, 5 and a half hours after the US, the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a canned statement, "recalling" his own earlier canned statement - this from an organization which allowed its head of Peacekeeping to use Ban's guards to eject the Press from an open meeting, and refused to answer this week about the torching of a radio station in Burkina Faso. Now Ban is "harvesting facts" on the charges against the Vice News journalist. How long will that take?

 So far the UN has remained silent, just as it refused to answer Press questions about the burning-down of a radio station in Burkina Faso, as raised by the Free UN Coalition for Access (FUNCA).

   Ban Ki-moon didn't explain his silence while in Ethiopia for the recent African Union summit about the terrorism trial of that country's Zone 9 Bloggers.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has been asking Ban's UN, and those who pass through it, about #FreeZone9Bloggers, as it asked about Peter Greste and his colleagues, for example here.

  On February 12, 2015 across First Avenue from the UN there was a panel discussion on protection of journalists at the International Peace Institute. Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo spoke.

 Inner City Press ran across First Avenue and posed a question: does the UN system do for independent journalists and bloggers what it does for corporate or state media?

  The panelist who answered was David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Kaye said, "As an independent journalist, it's good to see you here. From different perspectives, I think that's right. Sometimes the UN can do so loudly and publicly. Some situation might call for a little bit more of a quieter engagement."
  Rapporteur Kaye said that "from the OHCHR perspective, we have different tools. Our first tool is to communicate with governments on the quiet side, send them allegation letters or urgent appeals, Zone 9 Bloggers being a good exampe of that.
If we don't get a response, to issue press releases, to call out bad behavior. I agree with the tenor or your comment -- we should be out there calling out the bad behavior at the moment that it happens, quietly or more publicly. Article 19 is not written to protect only journalists, it protects everyone's right to seek, receive and impart information."
  The other panelists were Bård Glad Pedersen, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Agnes Callamard, Director of the Global Freedom of Expression and Information Project at Columbia University and former Executive Director of Article 19, Matthew Rosenberg, Foreign Correspondent of the New York Times (with interesting stories of Afghanistan but who declined to discuss the NYT's coverage of Iraq before the US invasion) and Judith Matloff of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. There will be video.


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