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At UN, Kazakh Official Praises Nazarbaev Authority in Karabakh, Dodges on Free Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 5 -- When Kazakhstan's foreign minister Kanat Saudabayev took three questions from the Press in front of the UN Security Council stakeout on February 5, lack of media freedom was unaddressed while the leader Nursultan Nazarbaev was extolled. There was even an echo of Borat.

  The UN Charter requires the Security Council to work with regional organizations. The OSCE, of which Kazakhstan took from Greece the chairmanship in January, is one such organization, involved in a number of frozen conflicts on which the UN cannot act, observing elections as the UN says it cannot do, most recently in Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press asked Minister Saudabayev two questions, but got only one answered. Using his February 15 trip to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia as the hook, Inner City Press asked what Kazakhstan planned to do about Nagorno-Karabakh -- and then, to respond to questions raised about media freedom in Kazakhstan, in connection with its OSCE role. Video here, from Minute 9:43.

Through a translator -- more on him in a moment -- Saudabayev said that there are things in Kazakhstan's favor, in tacking Nagorno Karabakh: president Nursultan Nazarbaev "has high authority with participating parties." Saudabayev walked away without answering.

  Inner City Press asked his translator the media freedom questions. He didn't answer that, but spoke about Evgeniy Zhovtis, saying that he's been a human rights lawyer in Kazakhstan for years without incident, but when he "ran over a pedestrian," all bets were off.

Saudabayev, answer on press freedom not shown

  It is not political, the translator insisted, contrary to Human Rights Watch. They say

"Ramazan Yesergepov, editor of the newspaper Alma-Ata Info, was sentenced to three years in prison on August 8, for disclosing state secrets, after the newspaper published an article making corruption allegations against local authorities based on classified documents. In June, the independent Almaty weekly Taszhargan had to cease publishing after an appellate court upheld a prior decision awarding Romin Madinov, a member of parliament, 3 million tenge (about US$20,000) in "moral damages" for an article alleging that Madinov's business interests benefited from his legislative work. In September, an Almaty court ordered the weekly Respublika to pay 60 million tenge (about $400,000) in "moral damages" to the BTA Bank, which had sued the newspaper after a March article discussing the bank's possible bankruptcy allegedly cost the bank the equivalent of $45 million in deposits. The appeal is still pending, but the newspaper is not able to pay the fine and will cease publishing if the decision is upheld.

"The government could have easily shown its commitment to freedom of expression by not adopting the July amendments, which were sharply criticized by the OSCE. It also could have established a cap on civil defamation penalties and ensured that investigative journalists like Yesergepov are not unjustly subject to criminal prosecution."

  The translator was Roman Vassilenko, previously the spokesman at Kazakhstan's Embassy in Washington. In that capacity, when comedian Sasha Baron Cohen of Borat fame came to the embassy, cameras in tow, Vassilenko had to deal with him. Now he is translating at the UN in New York for the foreign minister, accompanied by a coterie of pro-government Kazakh press.

* * *

Sri Lanka Lobbies at UN To Be De-Listed Despite Child Soldiers Recruited, Others Barred from School, Lanka's Inside Man

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 4 -- Two months after the UN sent retired Major General Patrick Cammaert to Sri Lanka, his report on Children and Armed Conflict in the country was presented to that sub-committee of the UN Security Council, in a closed meeting in the UN's basement.

  The report, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and exclusively puts online here, notes among other things the re-recruitment of children by a "commander named Iniya Barrathi who was part of the TMVP breakaway faction under Karuna's leadership." Cammaert recommends that that government take action.

  But in the meeting, a move was afoot to "de-list" Sri Lanka, from its one connection to the UN Security Council. During the bloodbath on the beach in 2009, despite tens of thousands of cilivians killed, Sri Lanka was never put on the Council's main agenda. A few meetings were held, informally, in the basement.

  Children and Armed Conflict, a committee of the Security Council, retained Sri Lanka on its list. It was in this context that Cammaert belatedly went to the country. His report also calls for wider accountability and investigations. But even the UN's Ban Ki-moon, who visited Sri Lanka in May for what many called a "victory tour," has not called for or begun any investigation.

  The report has other examples of children still impacted. Cammaert writes of a "visit to the Poonthotam primary school [in Vavuniya]. Half of the classrooms are currently being occupied by the Sri Lank Army (SLA) to host adult surrenderees, disrupting the education of more than half the student population."

  With all this unaddressed, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona was seen on February 4. He spoke to BBC, he was congratulated in the closed door meeting on Children and Armed Conflict. On February 5, he has invited UN diplomats and select scribes from countries like China to a concert at the Rajapaksa-friendly Asia Society. While Kohona has been missing from the UN in New York for some time, he was still working, calling Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar to try to get canceled a press conference on Sri Lanka by UN Special Rapporteur on Executions Philip Alston.

UN's Ban and Sri Lanka's Kahona, CAAC report and investigation not shown

  Ban later distanced himself from Alston and his call that Ban start an investigation. Why cancel the Children and Armed Conflict meeting, if it was to be a venue for celebrating the bloodbath on the beach and lobbying to de-list Sri Lanka from this last UN list? Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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