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At UN, Coverage of Dispute Banned To Not Impact Dispute, Censors Circle

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 1 -- While the UN continues to  preach transparency, democracy and even lack of censorship around the world, in two elections held in December inside the UN, disputes and decay were the rule, and have continued to grow worse ever since.

  On March 28, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq why the UN would censor a staff member's balanced article about the Staff Union standoff from the "Staff Voices" of the UN's in-house web site, i-Seek, video here, transcript below.

  Having no answer, Inner City Press put the question again on March 31 to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric at the day's noon briefing. Later on April 1 the follow rationale for censorship arrived:

Subject: Your question on iSeek
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Date: Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 5:28 PM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] innercitypress.com

The Administration will refrain from taking any action that may prejudice the outcome of the efforts by the Arbitration Committee to resolve these disputes.

  So the UN says it refused to publish a balanced staff article about a dispute, in order not to impact the dispute. This is the rationale for censorship in regimes around the world. And now in Ban's UN.

  Back on March 28, Inner City Press asked Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about something that some in the UN called censorship. I know you said you have no comment even if a letter has been received by Yukio Takasu about the Staff Union dispute, but I wanted to ask you this Ė an editor in the Office of Legal Affairs Treaty Division submitted an article for the Staff Voices section of the iSeek and was told in response that although they welcome it as a venue for staff information, on the issues youíre writing about, we have to take the advice of management into consideration and it would not be published. What I wanted to know is ó what are the standards for this Staff Voices section of iSeek? Is it really what the staff think and if an article, which Iíve seen the article, it actually quotes both sidesÖ what is managementís role in deciding or censoring what goes into the Staff Voices section?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Iím not aware of that dispute, so Iíd have to check with the people responsible for Staff Voices. It is meant to be a place where all staff can contribute their views... Iím not aware of this at all, so I would need to check up what the details are.

   Later on March 28, when Ban Ki-moon briefly back at UN Headquarters before setting out again took four media questions, all were from Western, US-based media, including one given as usual to the United Nations Correspondents Association, now become the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  But on the question on the UN's censorship, by noon on March 31, there was still no explanation or even answer. So Inner City Press asked again, and got the answer published in full above.

  Back on March 20, even as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon refuses to recognize any UN Staff Union, the ticket which received the most votes in December held a protest outside the Budget Committee. Inner City Press tweeted photos here & here.

  The topic was Ban's "mobility" proposal, which is in front of the Committee "without any counter-proposals from staff," as the flier handed out at the protest put it.

  While this proposal would send staff to far flung duty posts, the protesters said without regard to family situations, Ban has advisers who dodge his "five year" mobility rule by simply changing job titles but remaining in New York. Protesters mentioned Bob Orr, who has his own proposal in front of the Budget Committee, and senior adviser Kim Won-soo.

   In any event, even as the Secretariat tries in essence to break the Union, the actions continue. Inside the budget committee, Management chief Yukio Takasu presented an update on the Capital Master Plan renovation, which the protesters said would spend yet more money on security while some of them are being laid off, pending an arbitration decision.

  Back on March 11, new UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric tried to put his own headline on the protests.

  He said it was only about the Publishing Section -- which Inner City Press has covered since the UN used Hurricane Sandy as an excuse to eliminate jobs -- but the problems under Ban run much deeper.

  Dujarric on March 10 called the continued pay at the Under Secretary General level for Augustine Mahiga a short stint, closely aligned with a board of correspondents who clapped for him, and for Ban Ki-moon. It's a new development, and one in which the Free UN Coalition for Access will not participate. Last video here.

  On March 11, Dujarric dodged on a new Haiti cholera case filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn; he talked about "protection of minorities" being upfront. But on March 10 he said he hadn't watched the brutal footage of Tamils being killed by the Sri Lankan Army; there has still been no comment by the Secretariat.

  Back on February 11, despite a Staff Union election have been conducted including in the UN Lobby in December, since Ban's Secretariat has not recognized the winners a call for new Polling Officers went out. This despite a meeting earlier that day at which the caller did not disclose this course of action. The next day, UN Security had to be called to try to put down the dispute.

  Also on February 11, having moved to break the UN staff union by citing alleged irregularities in voting, the UN Secretariat held a closed door meeting with Permanent Representative on Ban Ki-moon's "mobility" proposal, which the union opposed. The meeting was not in the day's UN Journal, and was not on UNTV.

  Then as noted Ban Ki-moon held a lunch and "secret" question and answer session, with no question about Ukraine and the UN's derivative role, with what's become the UN's Censorship Alliance, despite its leadership openly violating the group's own constitution, which they recently put back online, by not having the required financial meeting in the first half of January, as promised in an email disclosing a donated Samsung television subsequently denied by UNCA 2013-14 president Pam Falk of CBS.

   Nor has the Ukraine-less Q&A at this lunch been disclosed to the wider press corps or public, despite a formal request from the Free UN Coalition for Access:

a tape or transcript of what the Secretary General said today this lunch: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BgOCAllCUAAwTxU.jpg Since the photo shows tape recorders, this is a request to be informed if any embargo was placed on what the Secretary General said. If not, this is a request including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access for an explanation, why this was not provided to all correspondents, and for the tape (or transcript) forthwith.

  What Nesirky's office did after that was to email out Ban's prepared remarks, with no question and answer, much less what is understood as his comments on crimes against humanity. (Since Ban was silent at the time on those in Sri Lanka, some ask, is it any wonder? Click here for UNCA's "leadership" on Sri Lanka.)

   How can the UN cite rules against one group, the union, while ignoring them on another? The answer is that the union fights or pushes to hold Ban accountable, while the UNCA leadership does not. So one is broken, the other lunched with.

  Most telling are direct censorship efforts by Louis Charbonneau the UN bureau chief of Reuters, with its Permanent seat on UNCA's board. He got Google to ban from its Search a complaint he filed with the UN trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, (mis) using the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act as diagnosed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. That's straight up censorship, and it's enough, well, to lose your lunch. But not today, apparently.

  More contrast: in the UN Staff Union election, in which an incumbent sought to stay on despite term limits, there were charges of illegal polling, and an attempt to stop paying the Elections Services Company.

   Now, the ticket that came out on top in the election has written to UN Department of Management chief Yukio Takasu for a statement if he and the UN recognize this union leadership.

   Takasu presided over a Department of Management town hall meeting at which impacts on staff members were discussed -- but without a recognized union?

   Inner City Press is informed that in the UN facility in Valencia, for example, contract workers will re obtained through the UN Office for Project Services. Union-busting and outsourcing, at the UN.

  On December 17 Inner City Press published the results, putting the document online here:

Winner with 430 votes: Ticket 1 [They have thanked voters]

President Stephen Kisambira (DESA/PD)

First Vice-President Emad Hassanin (DGACM/MPD/PS)

Second Vice-President Leonid Dolgopolov (DSS/DSSS/SSS)

2d place with 231 votes: Ticket 2

President Nadir A. Dirar Bashir (DGACM/MPD/PS/DTPU)...

  We will continue to cover that showdown, which is at least competitive. Even more decayed is the United Nations Correspondents Association or UN's Censorship Alliance.

  To compare: while the UN uses a dispute about the legality of the December election to refuse to recognize those who came out on top in the union election, the fact the UNCA has again violated its own Constitution, only today put back online, by not holding a meeting about its finance in the first half of January is ignored by the UN. Because UNCA serves this UN.

   It's simple: the UNCA Constitution Article 7, 1, states "The Association shall convene an annual Membership Meeting during the first half of the month of January."

  This didn't happen; instead, 2013-14 president Pamela Falk of CBS distributed November 25 minutes, which also directly referred to a donated Samsung television which UNCA later denied, stating as to the Constitution that

"It was noted that the meeting was a General Meeting, not the Annual General Meeting. The UNCA constitution requires an Annual General meeting that should be held in the first half of January; the date was set for January 14th. There was discussion and a vote for a meeting on December 5, but because the budget will not be completed until year's end, the meeting will be held, as the Constitution requires in January."

   Despite this acknowledgment of the requirements of the UNCA Constitution, the meeting was not held in the first half of January, or even in January at all.

  A Constitutionally-invalid meeting was finally held -- largely about, what else, another party, like the one held March 7 even as the Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict continued.

 Reporting on the Security Council is undermine by UNCA's laxity: there are fewer and fewer UNTV stakeouts, as potential speakers are diverted to private chats in the so-called Turkish Lounge. This happened on February 10, while the "new" UNCA fed quotes from French president Hollande's state dinner in Washington.

    Ban's UN hands the first question and more to UNCA, which does not challenge Ban. In 2012 its leaders tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, pointing at a factual article Inner City Press published about Sri Lanka, the UN and conflicts of interest.

  Ban's Secretariat now admits on Sri Lanka a "systemic failure" - his Deputy Jan Eliasson repeatedly says that -- but UNCA, which still has no rules against trying to throw journalists out of the UN, nor apparently any conflict of interest rules, makes no admission, no reforms.

  It demands the first question at press conferences even if it has nothing to ask, or the answers will never be published.

  Not surprisingly it is in decay. ng a 2009 trip to Sri Lanka with Ban Ki-moon and UK humanitarian chief Sir John Holmes not only didn't report Holmes on the record comment that he deleted all complaining emails from Tamils -- she said the Press reporting this "ruined" relations with Holmes for her and, for example, Reuters. Though over 2000 journalists are accredited at the UN, in December 2013 only 111 even tried to vote in the three days of polling -- and door to door demands to vote for -- the United Nations Correspondents Association. Seven of these ballots failed. The incumbent Pamela Falk of CBS, running unopposed, still managed to not get 26 of the 104 votes cast.

  But as a result of UNCA's "Ball" with Ban, she got her fashion photo in the NYT Styles section and made sure to hype it up, online and in the briefing room before being handed, only to waste, the first of four questions on the South Sudan crisis on December 23.

  Falk's vote total of 78 was lower than the 85 obtained in December 2011 by her predecessor, who was the one who first demanded that Inner City Press remove an article about Sri Lanka from the Internet, click here for that.

 The article UNCA "leaders" tries to censor reported on the previous financial relationship of Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative with UNCA's then president, in the context of this president screening in the UN the Sri Lankan government's war crimes denial film, without asking or the consent of Inner City Press then on the Executive Committee of UNCA.

  No reforms in UNCA were ever instituted after this.

 Inner City Press after withstanding a kangaroo court UNCA proceeding quit the organization and co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info, to actually defend the right of free press and free inquiry in and about the UN system.

    In 2012 UNCA "leaders" tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, as documented by documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Voice of America asked the UN to "review" Inner City Press' accreditation; VOA said it had the support of Agence France Presse and Reuters, click here for that.

The Reuters first vice president of UNCA spied for the UN, giving them an internal anti Press UNCA document three minutes after promising not to (story here, document here, audio here).

 While he has stepped off, the Reuters reporter he supervised (and who also tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN) campaigned to get on UNCA's board, demanded on camera in a UN noon briefing to all present, "Have you voted?" It's as if Reuters has a Permanent seat on UNCA's 15-member Executive Committee, like the P5 in the Security Council.

Here are the December 2013 results, compared to votes in December 2011 for the "candidate" or their predecessor

Dec '13 Dec '11

Prez: * 78 [85] Pamela Falk, CBS News TV and Radio

1st VP * 74 [79] Kahraman Haliscelik, TRT Turkish Radio & TV

2d VP * 48 71 Masood Haider, Dawn, Pakistan

* 48 [71] Sylviane Zehil, LíOrient Le Jour

3d VP * 55 [62] Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress

38 Ali Barada, An-Nahar/France 24

Trez * 81 [71] Bouchra Benyoussef, Maghreb Arab Press

Sect * 79 [81] Seana Magee, Kyodo News

Members at Large:

* 57 1. Nabil Abi Saab , Alhurra TV

* 57 2. Talal Al-Haj ,Al-Arabiya News channel

22 3. George Baumgarten , Jewish Newspapers, Nation Media

* 50 4. Sherwin Bryce-Pease, South African Broadcasting (SABC)

* 51 5. Zhenqiu Gu, Xinhua News Agency

* 69 6. Melissa Kent, CBC/Radio Canada

* 56 7. Evelyn Leopold, Huffington Post Contributor

49 8. J. Tuyet Nguyen, German Press Agency DPA

* 67 9. Michelle Nichols, Reuters

41 10. Edwin Nwanchukwu, News Agency of Nigeria

27 11. Cia Pak, Scannews

*54 12. Valeria Robecco, ANSA

* 54 13. Sangwon Yoon , Bloomberg

  Some of the elected are new and their positions on UNCA Executive Committee members trying to get other (investigative) media thrown out of the UN, and the need to preclude this and UNCA leaders' anonymous social media trolling, are not yet known. (Some not elected were among the better / more diverse candidates.)

When the UN Correspondents Association leaders tried stealthy to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, and have failed to institute any reform since, it became the UN's Censorship Alliance. Party on. Watch this site.


 

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