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At UN, As Ban Poses with Korean Tourism Czar, Press Is Banned, No Read-Out Until Two Days Later

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 9, updated Feb. 11 -- The schedule of photo opportunities by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for February 9 contained only one item, a 10 a.m. courtesy call with his new Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallstrom. Then at 9:40 a.m. in an alert to UN correspondents, another item was added: a 5:20 p.m. photo op with the head of the Korea Tourism Promotion Corporation, Lee Cham.

  Several correspondents scratched their heads, asking Inner City Press by e-mail what to make of the addition. Ban Ki-moon has complained that the media unfairly portrays him as playing to an audience in his home country, South Korea. Most recently, his top adviser Kim Won-soo gave an exclusive on the record interview to JoongAng Ilbo, while eschewing such interaction with non-Korean press. [Update of February 11 -- Ms. Soung-ah Choi has stated, on the record, that JoongAng Ilbo did not have an exclusive interview with Kim Won-soo." There's more to this, but that for now is the on the record version.]

  Why then would Ban Ki-moon so openly not only meet with a Korean tourism group, but seek to publicize the meeting with a photo op? To find out, Inner City Press went to cover the photo op. Camera in hand, Inner City Press waited on the ground floor of the UN's new building, dubbed UN-KIA or Bantanamo.

  A UN photographer arrived, and Inner City Press traveled up in the elevator with him. On the third, executive floor, Inner City Press submitted to a screening with an electronic wand, and agreed to leave a laptop out in the anteroom.

  But just before the photo op began, Mr. Ban's South Korean spokesperson Ms. Choi Soung-ah came up, as the UN's own photographers were entering, and announced that Inner City Press could not enter. You'll have to wait for MALU, she said, referring to the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit.

  It was obvious to all that MALU would not arrive on time. So to cite this rule was to exclude Inner City Press from the photo op that the UN itself has publicized.

UN's Ban and S. Korea's Lee, (c) UN -- as of 10pm no KTPC photo on (but see below)

  Afterwards, Inner City Press requested from the UN Spokesperson's Office a read out of Ban's meeting with the Korean Tourism Promotion Council. Four hours after the meeting and the request, no read out was provided. [Update: one was finally received on February 11, see below.] Nor was the UN Photo shot of Ban and the Korea Tourism official put on [This remained true as of 2 p.m. on February 11.] So who was the photo op for? Watch this site.

UN's Ban and Lee Cham, UN's own photo by Mark Garten

Footnote: while some correspondents wondered why Ms. Choi Soung-ah (or Soung-ah Choi) was in the Executive Office while more senior spokespeople were six blocks south in their space under the cafeteria, it is perhaps explained by Ms. Choi's stated jurisdiction: Asia including Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Also earlier on Tuesday, chief Spokesperson Martin Nesirky has said that "within hours" Ban would be calling Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa, presumably to express concern about crack down on opponents and the press.

   After the Korean Tourism meeting, Ban had still not made the call, and four hours later, still no read out had been provided. The read out will have to be approved, Inner City Press was told. By who -- Ms. Choi? Mr. Pascoe and Mr. Kim are in North Korea. So could it be DPA's Hitoki Den? We'll have more on this. [See February 10 update, here.]

Update of February 11 -- the following read-out was received by Inner City Press from Soung-ah Choi on February 11 (it may have been sent before then, but the reason for the delay is, at Ms. Choi's request, "off the record") --

Mr. Lee Cham, President of the Korea Tourism Organization, paid a courtesy call on the Secretary-General this afternoon.

The two discussed the economic impact of tourism - both inbound and outbound - on developed and developing countries, and the significant contributions it can have on the global economy and development.

The Secretary-General highlighted the importance of sustainable tourism, and the management of resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity. This, while helping to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems.

   An update was also provided at the February 11 UN noon briefing about the North Korea trip of Mr. Pascoe, Mr. Kim and other others: the gift they brought for Kim Jong-Il was a leather bound copy of the UN Charter in all six of the Organization's working languages...
* * *

UN Says It "Cannot Name and Shame" on Sexual Violence, Silence on Congo Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- The UN on February 9 bragged about its work against Sexual Violence in Conflict, introducing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's new Special Representative on the topic, Margot Wallstrom.

  But when asked why the UN's Mission in the Congo MONUC works with Army united accused of mass rape by the UN's own Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, and why the UN never disclosed any discipline for Sri Lankan peacekeepers sent home from Haiti after being accused of sexual abuse, the UN had no answers. Video here, from Minute 16:23.

Inner City Press asked Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, about a portion of Alston's report describing that

"In Shalio (near Busurungi in North Kivu) it appears that the FARDC, led by Colonel Zimulinda, attacked a makeshift camp of Rwandan Hutu refugees on 27 April 2009. The FARDC surrounded the camp, shot and beat to death at least 50 refugees and burnt the camp to the ground. It also appears that some 40 women were abducted from the camp. A small group of 10 who escaped described being gang raped, and had severe injuries; some had chunks of their breasts hacked off. It is not known what has happened to the other 30 women."

  Inner City Press has previously asked MONUC chief Alan Doss about the report, after it came out in October. Doss never announced any suspension of support to Zimulinda's unit. Rather, he made a misleading announcement of the end of the Kimia II operation. Soon thereafter, it was replaced by another operation, Amani Leo, in which MONUC supports questionable units of the Congolese Army.

  Le Roy on February 9 said that the UN is "vetting unit by unit." He blurred a word, or made a Freudian slip, saying that "Alan Doss knows [or does] very well, each times there is full evidence" of abuse by a unit, "we stop our support." Video here, from Minute 18:50. So does Alan Doss do this well? Or is the claim that he "knows" very well the policy?

  Inner City Press asked why, four months after Alston's report, which was followed by others (with Zimulinda called "Zimurinda"), the UN has apparently done nothing. Video here, from Minute 19:18. There was another recent report of the UN and accused mass rapist Bosco Ntaganda, which some in the UN think was unfair. But what about Zimulinda?

Why does it take the UN four months to study Alston's short report? Why has it taken the UN eight months and counting to "investigate" and act on Alan Doss' six line email to UNDP asking them to show "leeway" and give his daughter a job? Does Doss "do" well, or simply "know" well?

  At the UN, is it all about who you know?

UN's Ban and Alan Doss, investigation of Zimulinda and Doss-mail not shown

   Le Roy answered a question by referring to a new UN web site purporting to provide transparency into the disposition of allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation by UN peacekeepers. Inner City Press pointed to a particular page, here, which reports that the UN made 82 communications about abuse to Troop Contributing Countries in 2009, and got 14 "responses."

  Inner City Press asked, were the responses indications of prosecution? Or merely letters in response? This, Le Roy did not answer. He said "we cannot name and shame," because TCCs don't want it. But nor should the UN give blue helmets and immunity to soldiers who, if they rape, suffer only "repatriation." More disclosures should be made -- we will continue to pursue this. Watch this site.

* * *

UN's Ban to Call Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa about Fonseka's Arrest, Nambiar Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- A day after his spokesman dodged questions about Sri Lanka's arrest of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, on Tuesday afternoon UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "intends to speak" with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

  Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky announced the scheduled telephone call in response to a follow up question by Inner City Press. Video here, from Minute 7:36. Nesirky had a prepared statement, "urging the authorities to follow due process of law" and "provide all necessary protections" in the run up to "Parliamentary elections."

  Inner City Press had asked on February 8 if the Rajapaksa administration's violent arrest of Fonseka was the type of "provocative act" which Ban had counseled against. Nesirky had declined to apply Ban's general statement to the facts on the ground.

  On February 9, Inner City Press contrasted the Rajapaksas' dissolving of parliament and calling for snap elections with their arrest of their main opponent. Could the coming elections be considered free and fair?

UN's Ban, pictured with Basil Rajapaksa, arrests and call not shown

  Previously Ban declined a request at the UN provide safeguards of fairness to the presidential round of elections, which Fonseka has challenged as riddled with fraud. After that vote, Ban even expressed "relief" at how well it had done.

  Now that journalists have been harrassed, censored and prosecuted and the main opponent arrested, might Ban and the UN at least attempt to provide some type of safeguards for the second, Parliamentary round?

  And since Ban has said he is considering appointing a panel on investigating Sri Lanka war crimes, and presidential brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has since rejected any UN investigation, will Ban raise then announce the panel, which UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and others have called for? Watch this site.

Footnote: Also on the war crimes front, Sri Lanka'a Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona has now denied that the UN's Vijay Nambiar was even in Sri Lanka at the time LTTE leaders were executed while surrendering with white flags.

 Inner City Press, which has asked the question publicly without public answer, understands that the UN is being asked again for the specifics of Mr. Nambiar's involvement, whether he was given and conveyed assurances of safety and legal compliance from the Rajapaksas which were then violated.

  On February 9, Inner City Press asked as it had on February 8 about attempts by Kohona and Sri Lanka's foreign minister to reach Mr. Ban to cancel a press conference on war crimes by UN Special Rapporteur Alston, which request was referred to Nambiar. The day after he said he would find out, Neskiry on Tuesday had no answer. Video here, from Minute 9:50. He called it a small thing -- as Inner City Press had, in an abundance of caution -- but again said he would "look into it." We'll see.

 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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