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May Day at UN Has Protest of Ban's "Forced Relocations," Free Speech Asserted

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- On May Day as workers worldwide rally and in some case strike, at UN Headquarters' entrance traffic circle a march will be held at 1:30 pm to protest Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's "broken promises" including on "forced relocations" of staff into a "substandard building."

  UN Translation staff have filed for and won a suspension of action blocking Ban's Secretariat from relocating them. Inner City Press has obtained the UN Dispute Tribunal order and puts it online, here.

  By May 2, Ban's Secretariat has been directed to "address, inter alia, the following issues:

a. When were the Applicants notified for the first time of the proposed move? (Respondent is to include any supporting documentation.)

b. What is the legal status of the Capital Master Plan Guidelines, referred to in the applications? (Respondent is to provide the Tribunal with a copy of the Guidelines.)

c. What is the effective date of the proposed move to the Albano building? (Respondent is to include any supporting documentation.)

d. What are the official documents regulating the size of offices an cubicles in the United Nations? (Respondent is to provide the Tribunal with these documents.)"

  The protest organizers have said, and we agree, that there is, even at the UN, a "right to exercise free speech... At 13:30, we will proceed to the fountain that is located in the circle in front of the Secretariat Building to peacefully voice our disagreements with management on anything related to the Albano building, from the broken promises that brought us here in the first place to this ill-conceived move that has put staff of the different services in a situation where they have to confront each other for the privilege of working in a substandard building.

"You are all encouraged to bring signs of the type that role up to voice your grievances. However, if they're attached to wooden holders being brought through the gates, that might be a problem. It's our right to exercise free speech."

  Free speech at the UN is much in dispute. Recently the supervisor of UN Media Accreditation Stephane Dujarric contacted Inner City Press "urgently" about a single tweet, saying he was giving Inner City Press a chance. A chance for what?

  The tweet concerned how high officials of the UN are selected, and its relation to the veto powers in the Security Council (including for selecting the Secretary General) of those who won World War II. Could this topic be taboo?

  The UN press corps, too, is being primed for a move back to the Secretariat Building on May 10. Why it was delayed was never sufficiently explained. The Free UN Coalition for Access asked for a written explanation but not was given.

  Rather the reply involved a non-consensual raid on Inner City Press' office on March 18 by the Department of Public Information, which rifled through papers and took photographs, later leaked to, including of Inner City Press' desk and bookshelf.

  The president of the old UN Correspondents Association, Pamela Falk of CBS, was present and took photographs; when Inner City Press wrote about that, she issued from her e-mail account a legal threat to "cease and desist." Free speech indeed. We will cover the protest(s). Watch this site.

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