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Ban Ki-moon Issues Charlie Hebdo Quotes Without Qs or Public Notice in UNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 7 -- How and to whom is news doled out at the UN, when something big, and bad in the case of today's Charlie Hebdo murders in France, happens in the wider world?

   As statements of outrage and condolence rolled in from capitals all over the world, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stayed silent. UN Television sent out an updated alert that the president of the Security Council would read a statement about the attack at 11:30 am -- but nothing about Ban Ki-moon, who could presumably speak faster and with fewer approvals.

  Ban Ki-moon's online public schedule for January 7 listed, and still at 2:45 pm only lists, two appointments: “12:00 p.m. Meeting with Mr. Mehdi Jomaa, Prime Minister of Tunisia and 3:30 p.m. Meeting with Mr. Jack Rosen, Chief Executive, Rosen Partners, LLC.”

    But UN correspondents who had paid money to UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance, had been sent an e-mail that Ban would make remarks in the clubhouse the UN gives them, sometime after 10:15 am.

   There at 10 am, UN Television was putting cameras in -- but still, nothing in the UN Media Alert or even UNTV Pool report. It became clear, while standing in front of the UN Censorship Alliance's clubhouse, that Ban would be using this private event to make his remarks on Charlie Hebdo, and predictable take no questions.

   What is the relationship between Ban's UN and UNCA? Journalists accredited to cover the UN are told, if they ask, that they are not required to join UNCA - and Inner City Press is not a member, having quit the group after being elected to its Executive Committee for 2011-12 and before, and then co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access.

   At noon on January 7, Inner City Press for FUNCA asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric why it was not in the Media Alert. Click here for video of that Q&A, and one on Sri Lanka, and from outside the private event, here.

   But the UN was using UNCA as a proxy for the whole press corps - trying, as more than one correspondent put it, to make them join UNCA to not “miss news” such as this.

  The past and returned president of UNCA, Giampaolo Pioli, has said that no correspondent who is a member of the Free UN Coalition for Access can be a member of UNCA. And the notification of and invitation to Ban's “remarks” was sent only to UNCA members, who pay dues money to UNCA.

  Is this appropriate?

  Inner City Press, after doing its best to cover Ban's short - and yes, questionless - remarks from the space outside the UN Censorship Alliance's clubhouse, Tweeted photo here, audio from source here, went to the day's UN noon briefing and asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric why Ban's prepared remarks on the Charlie Hebdo killings had not been in the Media Alert.

  Dujarric replied that it was too short notice and said that it had been “squawked” -- only to in-house journalists who were inside the UN building -- at 9:45 am.  But that left a full hour to e-mail a Media Alert update to the wider list of journalists accredited to cover the UN. It wasn't done: it's the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  Inner City Press for FUNCA asked Dujarric why it wasn't listed on Ban's public schedule, while Rosen Partners was (Inner City Press asked what that meeting was about but was not told.)

  Dujarric replied that speaking to UNCA -- ostensibly wishing happy New Year to the journalists covering the UN, in an event publicized only to the subset which pays money to UNCA -- was an in-house event. Correspondents can, it seems, become too embedded.

  When asked why he would hold a Ban Ki-moon news event without making sure it was in the Media Alert, Pioli said “we have nothing to do with the Media Alert.” And that is one of the problems, or reality: UNCA is not ABOUT wider access to news at the UN.

  In fact, UNCA board members including Pioli tried to get Inner City Press thrown out in 2012, after demanding that articles and even photographs be taken down. #WeAreCharlie, as they say.

  At the end of the day's UN noon briefing, in which another journalist reminded Dujarric that not all UN correspondents are members of UNCA and the UNCA only sends notices to its dues paying members, Dujarric said he would look into that. That is not enough.

  Tellingly, from the Twitter feed of UNCA, which Dujarric claims can be relied on as a middleman to reach the UN press corps, Inner City Press is blocked. Any particular media could do it - but with UNCA doing it, the UN must cease using UNCA as a middle-man, as its Censorship Alliance.

 Notices should be sent to all UN accredited media. There is no reason to use UNCA as a middle-man. That Ban should not partner in this way with censors is another question. Prepared remarks should be in the Media Alert.  This is basic - and the Free UN Coalition for Access will remain on the case.


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