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In DRC, UN OKs Jamming Rebel Radio, Silent on Sudan Hostages & Excluding Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 13, updated -- Rather than having a single standard, the UN picks and chooses which free speech it will speak up for, when it will speak including about attacks on it and who, when push comes to shove, gets excluded. All this was on display at the UN's August 13 noon briefing. Video here and embedded below.

  In the morning, Inner City Press reported that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the UN provides military support to the Joseph Kabila government, a parliamentarian was arrested for insulting Kabila on a radio station.

  Then at noon, Inner City Press asked for the UN's comment on this, and on the Kabila government jamming the new radio station of the M23 insurgents. Does the UN view this is a free speech or press issue, or as just an attack on an armed group the UN wants to disarm?

  UN spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey chose and repeated the latter: it's an attack on an armed group we want to disarm. Is that would UNESCO would say? And what of the arrest of a non-armed parliamentarian?

  The UN itself stays silent, for example on the taking hostage of three of its catering contractors in Darfur for more than a week now. Inner City Press, after reporting the story, asked Del Buey what the UN's policy is, of speaking up about attacks on it in some places and not others.

   Are there other UN or UN contractor hostages being held but not disclosed by Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office? Del Buey said he would not comment on that.

  With protests scheduled for Bahrain tomorrow, and reporters and bloggers being harassed in advance, Inner City Press asked what the UN is doing. Del Buey repeated a general statement about the right to protest. One wondered, is Ban's half time envoy Terje Roed-Larsen telling that to the Bahraini royals?

  Finally, on an issue Inner City Press asked and wrote about yesterday, the elimination of all 53 press seats at the upcoming General Debate week, and the exclusion of civil society from the General Assembly for the entire time it is in the North Lawn building, Del Buey still had not answer. He said first the delegates have to find space. Is that the only priority? Given what Ban has said or mouthed about civil society?

  Before asking at the briefing, the Free UN Coalition for Access had asked the question of who decided for a second time to the Department of Public Information's Stephane Dujarric, by twitter since he uses it, and by e-mail to two other DPI officials, one above and one supervised by him, who do not. One of these is away from another week; the other is "looking into it." Watch this site.


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