As UN Names Decedent on South Lawn, Push-Back at
Photos, Run-Around on Computer Job Specifics
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- In the aftermath of
the death on February 17 of Maria Gabriela Di Biase on the UN's South Lawn, the UN has
issued to the press a statement that Ms. Di Biase technically worked for the
World Health Organization, not the UN Secretariat, although she maintained the
computers on the Secretariat building's 19th floor for ten years. On the UN's
Intranet, Under Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena posted a
four-paragraph letter to all staff, saying that "Ms. Di Biase was a staff member
of the International Computing Center (ICC), an entity sponsored by the World
Health Organization that provides services to the UN system." Ms. Barcena's
letter refers to a "tragic death at UN Headquarters on Sunday," but does not say
more than that.
Sunday evening, Inner City
Press published an
with two photographs. The
showed Ms. Di Biase's hand protruding from a blanket placed over her body, as
below. In the
her hands have been covered with bags and tape by the authorities. That day,
police sources told Inner City Press that the bags and tape are used when there
is a chance of DNA evidence from a struggle being recovered. That is why Inner
City Press published the photograph, adding
a warning that
it might be upsetting to some readers.
Tuesday, two UN officials criticized to
Inner City Press the publication of the photo. Both urged that the photo be
removed. From the UN's executive office on the 38th floor, an official called
the publication "tasteless" and said that the "staff is angry." But on the
5th floor, the office of the UN Staff Union, no such anger was expressed. In
fact, solemn encouragement was given to further look into Maria Di Biase's death,
including on the theory that if -- "if" -- she chose to jump out of the
19th floor of the UN, she was not looking for a private and unreported death.
Which of these views represents that of UN staff?
en paz descanse
In fairness, the anger at
reporting is not only from the 38th floor. Sources at a meeting held Tuesday
report that a director-level official
known throughout the UN system for having
been accused then exonerated of procurement fraud,
spoke out about the photos and the publication running them. If in the face of
this anger at reporting it needs to be explained again, when a person in their
40s is dead on the UN's South Lawn, it is news to be covered. This is true
anywhere in New York City, for example, but the UN seems to think that it is
different, that it can choose what is covered and how. That is not the case. At
the request of the official from the 38th floor, however, a quote from the
Security Council's Sunday emergency meeting in Inner City Press' mid-day Sunday
on the death, wondering at a connection between the computer worker's death and
the lack of e-mail notice of the meeting to the interpreters and to journalists,
has been excised.
Inner City Press on Tuesday asked
spokesperson Marie Okabe what arrangement exists between the UN Secretariat,
where Ms. Di Biase worked, and the World Health Organization, which Ms. Okabe
said signed Ms. Di Biase's paychecks. Inner City Press was directed to ask WHO,
which seems strange. But continue to ask we will, including because Net-savvy
UN ICC's website
draws a blank on "customers
and partners," and most other sub-pages, click
here to view.
To be continued.
And, que en paz descanse.
Inner City Press 2008, All rights reserved.
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here for a
AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.
for an earlier
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