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Amid Lanka Threats, UNCA President Who Took Kohona's Rent Suspends ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- Amid gleeful coverage in Sri Lankan state media and apparent happiness at the highest levels of the UN, the UN Correspondents Association Excutive Committee on Friday voted to reject a proposed two-sided clarification drafted by Inner City Press, and voted, including with the votes of members not even present to hear the proposal, to suspend Inner City Press.

  Now they say begins a ten-day "Board of Examination" process to "investigate" Inner City Press, based on a file held by UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli but never shown to Inner City Press. Pioli has proposed as chairman of the Board of Examination a staff member work for a state media member of the Executive Committee who's already voted against Inner City Press without being present.

  The issue centers around Pioli having by his own belated admission accepted rent money from Palitha Kohona, the Permanent Representative to the UN of Sri Lanka.

 The Sri Lankan Mission to the UN, run by Pioli's former tenant Kohona and his deputy Shavendra Silva, continues to act as though it has a special relationship with Pioli, sending complaint letters about Inner City Press to Pioli's UNCA unlike any other member state at the UN. Therefore, it would seem clear that Pioli had a duty to recuse himself from decisions about Sri Lanka's media access.

   But Pioli did not recuse himself, and without notifying other Executive Committee members like Inner City Press, granted Kohona's request to screen a government denial of war crimes called "Lies Agreed To."

  It purports to be a rebuttal of UK Channel 4 documentary called "Killing Fields of Sri Lanka," which itself was NOT shown in the UN due to a celebration for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  Once Inner City Press reported on this, Piolo as president of UNCA demand that it be taken off the Internet. He shouted at Inner City Press, I'll have you thrown out of the UN. And now he is trying to do it.

  Pioli's Vice President, Reuters' Lou Charbonneau, filed a stealth complaint against Inner City Press with the UN Media Accreditation Unit, which controls access to the UN, sending copies to Pioli, Voice of America's Margaret Besheer and Agence France Presse's Timothy Witcher.

  Last week MALU, after three times saying it would renew Inner City Press' accreditation on June 4, refused to follow through. Notably, MALU gave four re-accreditations and even new accreditations to Reuters' "technicians" in June 1, when Inner City Press was told the office was too busy to look at its request.

  Inner City Press at Friday's meeting passed out a copy of a June 7 article in Sri Lanka's pro government Daily Mirror that

"The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) is investigating the unethical and unprofessional behaviour of well-known Inner City Press correspondent Matthew Russel Lee, who has on several occasions attacked Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes... Mr. Pioli admitted accepting rent from Dr. Kohona but denied the accusation he was biased in favour of Sri Lanka and while Mr. Pioli demanded the article be removed from Lee’s blog, he had refused calling it censorship.

"If Mr. Lee is impeached, he would be the first UNCA journalist to be expelled from the association. He has also being critical of Major General Shavendra Silva-the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka at the UN. Mr. Lee has criticized the UN for appointing Major General Silva to the UN Advisory Panel on Peacekeeping."

  The connection to Inner City Press' reporting on Ban Ki-moon and his French chief of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous accepting Shavendra Silva, given his record, as a "senior adviser" and these moves to suspend, impeach and expel Inner City Press will be the subject of forthcoming reports -- ALONGSIDE, we emphasize, Inner City Press' regular reporting, such as just today before the vote for the next President of the General Assembly having publicly predicted, based on polling of sources, that Serbia's Vuk Jeremic would win with 97 votes.

 Jeremic won with 99. Watch this site.

Footnote: Indicative of the lawlessness of Pioli and his big media coterie, while they said they "suspend" Inner City Press, there is no provision for that in UNCA's Constitution. There is a provision to "investigate" with a "Board" to consider "impeachment."

  If you can just suspend an Executive Committee member who was elected by the general membership, why even have a Board or Rules? Perhaps the flow with Sri Lanka is two way...

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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