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At UN, Fixed Election of Censoring Party Planner Has Attackers of Free Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 8 -- The day before an election with no competition for the top six spots of the UN Correspondents Association, fliers raising the point that the fix was in were torn down in the UN, in the press floor above the Dag Hammarskjold Library.

  Downstairs in the press corps' outward looking face, fliers that had been defaced with "Looney Club" were cleaned and left up, to make it appear all was well with UNCA.

  But nothing could be further from the truth.

   UNCA has devolved into at best a party planner, at worst a proponent of censorship as was shown in 2012.

   Five big media members of the UNCA Executive Committee sought to expel a smaller investigative media which dared to raise questions of conflict of interest. When a legal defense was mounted, three of the five decided to ask the UN to dis-accredit the Press, in a stealth June 20, 2012 letter from Voice of America to the UN's Stephane Dujarric.

  While Voice of America's Steve Redisch was the signer of the letter, his UN bureau chief Margaret Besheer had told him that her colleagues from Reuters and Agence France-Presse, Louis Charbonneau and Tim Witcher respectively, would support the letter or write their own.

   Inner City Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request, since Voice of America is a US government agency.

  In early August some documents came in (more were released on appeal in early December), with Besheer assuring her bosses that UNCA had met with the UN, "very quietly," to get Inner City Press thrown out.

  It is not therefore surprising that Besheer is not "running" for re-election. Nor is the president who oversaw this travesty, nor one of the five big media denouncers of the Press, nor another voting with them.

  But Charbonneau is pursuing without competition another term as first vice president. With a replacement president who is not as frequently at the UN, he seems to believe he would again be the one running the show, to the benefit of himself if not of Reuters.

  Witcher too is running again, if only for an "at large" seat. So is another reporter they used, to file a complaint with the UN which the official complained to found "frivolous" upon review.

   And so something is sick within UNCA, and this fixed election will not fix it.

  The response of Inner City Press has been to launch a new and needed organization actually fighting for media rights with regard to the UN: the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA. Its fliers have been defaced and torn down but there will be no stopping it. Watch this site.

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