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On Uzbek Human Rights, UN Won't Compare, Sting Sings, But Not For UNICEF

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- When the UN's Human Rights Committee reviews the record of a country like Uzbekistan, of what value is it? Uzbekistan persecutes political opponents and religious minorities: for example, it has locked up a UNICEF-funded AIDS activist by calling his pamphlets blasphemous.

Last week Inner City Press asked Committee members if Uzbekistan's record was getting better or worse. "That's not the way we address it," replied Krister Thelin, a Swedish member of the Committee. "I will not engage at this time in any grading exercise. I hope you can respect that." Video here, from Minute 32:43.

  Is Uzbekistan's record better or worse than New Zealand, which was also being reported on? We don't compare, was the answer, along with a coy pointing to the fact that Uzbekistan has been asked to report again in three years, while New Zealand has been given five years, the "top grade."

  Perhaps it's this garbled or non-speak which for example allowed former Police bassist Sting to recently take money to play a concert for the daughter of Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov.

Krister Thelin at UN, comparison of Uzbekistan and NZ not shown

 When confronted, Sting said he thought the concert was "sponsored by UNICEF."

But Inner City Press asked UNICEF spokesman Chris de Bono, twice, and both times was told the UNICEF had nothing to do with Ms. Karimova's concert featuring Sting.

With so little said at the press conference, one had to go back to the UN's own write up of the Committee's proceedings on Uzbekistan. Therein, at page 9, one finds the blissfully unaware comments of one "Hellen Keller" of Switzerland who "said she was particularly impressed by the blue booklet the delegation had provided to the Committee." You might ask, how did she know it was blue? Or, what would have has thought of the requirment by neighboring Turkmenistan that all children read the leader's book, Ruhnama?

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Censorship Omitted From UN Study of Internet Access by ITU, No Comment on Cuba, Dissident's Death

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- Access to the Internet in 161 countries was compared by the UN's International Telecommunications Union in a recent report, Measuring the Information Society 2010. Inner City Press asked ITU's Susan Teltscher whether her agency considered the quality and content of the internet provided -- that is, censorship -- noting the exclusion from the final data tables of such countries as Turkmenistan, Cuba and North Korea.

 Ms. Teltscher said that ITU did not consider internet censorship. Why not? It "cannot be captured in statistics," she replied. Video here, from Minute 18:18.

  To some, any UN study of access to the Internet should take into account the varieties of Internet censorship, from China's Great Firewall to more total bans in countries like North Korea. The press conference's moderator, ITU's New York representative, said that the ITU like the rest of the UN system supports Article 19, on access to information across frontiers in all media.

  But when Ban Ki-moon's two envoys Lynn Pascoe and Kim Won-soo recently visited Pyongyang, they did not even raise the issue of press and internet freedom. Click here for that story. Likewise, in November 2009 when protesters raised a banner about China's net blocking at a UN conference in Egypt, UN security removed the banner. Click here for that story.

It is important that someone study the pricing of Internet access. But an entirely amoral investment bank could do that, as a business proposition. For the UN to fail to include some measure or mention of censorship in its more than 100 page study of 
ITU's Susan Teltscher on Feb. 23, internet censorship not shown

Footnote: while Cuba was omitted from the ITU final tables, on February 24 UN spokesman Martin Nesirky was asked:

Question: On Cuba, yesterday, a Cuban political prisoner called Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after 85 days on hunger strike in prison. And people in Cuba and Latin America in general are very shocked by this event and they consider it as a clear human rights violation. My question is, does the UN have a comment on this issue or will have a comment on this issue?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Secretary-General is aware of the case. We don’t have anything to say at the moment. But he is aware of the case. We don’t have anything to say at the moment.

Question: But will you say something?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I said he doesn’t have anything to say at the moment

Well, Orlando Zapata Tamayo is dead. Even Raul Castro has "lamented" it. But the UN's Ban Ki-moon is aware but silent.

 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.

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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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