Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the United Nations to Wall Street to the Inner City

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYT Azerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .


Follow us on TWITTER

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

FUNCA Asks of UN Censorship Alliance Saying UN Can Search Press Lockers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18 -- At the UN, transparency and access are in decline, due to collusion. Dubious exclusives, sometimes merely about logistics, are given to favored and accommodating scribes like those atop the UN's Censorship Alliance, UNCA, who uncritically repeat them: call it news. Then UNCA charges money for space at the UN which it say the UN will search.

 On February 17, UNCA's censor in chief Giampaolo Pioli told those who pay UNCA money that in exchange he had taken some spaces from the press corps at large -- the bullpen -- for them, but added "please note that the Department of Safety and Security reserves the right to inspect the lockers for safety or security reasons."

  So wait -- the UN which journalists critically cover will search the papers and effects of those who cover it? Unlike this servile UNCA, the new Free UN Coalition for Access objects, and has objected.

 At the February 18 noon briefing, Iner City Press for FUNCA asked:

Inner City Press:  And the other one, it's a press freedom issue, so I wanted to ask it.  Apparently, some part of the bullpen is going to be assigned to particular media.  That's not what my question is about.  What my question is about is, it was announced that:  “Please note the Department of Safety and Security reserves the right to inspect the lockers at any time.”  And since we're talking about journalists that are covering the UN, I wanted to know what safeguards are in place.  I mean, could they search people's computers?  It seems extraordinary to me, this statement.

Spokesman Stephane:  They will not… I can tell you that I don't believe our colleagues in Department of Safety and Security will search anybody's computers.  It's not in anybody's interest.  And if there is a search in lockers which may be abandoned or for whatever other reason, there will be people from MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit] there, as well.

 We'll see. Similarly, after the UN locked journalists out of covering the February 15 Security Council session on Yemen, the Free UN Coalition for Access objected, both at the time and at the next noon briefing on February 17. Pioli, in the briefing room without a question, said nothing -- apparently in the midst of arranging the searching of other journalists' work space.

  Pioli's UNCA are insiders who don't even share information with those who pay them due money, much less the wider public. Back on February 5 the UN's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said

"You might be aware of this already, but I have a trip announcement for you; I believe the Secretary-General mentioned this to some of you yesterday.  The Secretary-General will depart for Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on Friday, 6 February, to convey his condolences to the people of Saudi Arabia, who had recently lost their leader, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.  During his two-day stay in Saudi Arabia, the Secretary-General will also meet with country’s new leader, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud."

  The "some of you" referred to the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association, which released no transcript of the spoon-feeding session, merely tweeting from the session, at 1:42 pm, "#UNSG Ban tells UNCA committee he will travel to #SaudiArabia on Friday to meet King Salman to talk Mideast challenges, then on to #UAE."

 No mention for example of Saudi flogged blogger Raif Badawi, from an organization which claims to care about freedom of the press - actually, it doesn't -- now any other questions. A mere pass-through.

 Relatedly, in a telling dysfunction, UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous on January 22 openly refused to answer Press questions, video here.

  This decayed UN Correspondents Association, run by president Giampaolo Pioli who has himself demanded censorship, held its annual meeting on January 23, and even by its own account, not a word about access problems or lack of information.

Here was the agenda, annotated, now with "minutes" as provided by disgruntled members who say the UN "makes" them pay UNCA, added in italics:

Space, "including journalists on the waiting list for office space" -- on January 23, UNCA's "leadership" said that "that after meeting with DPI working space on the 4th floor will become available to 6-8 journalists beginning in February."

  Even or especially if this representation is true, there is a problem: UNCA is essentially selling or trying to sell these UN spaces. UNCA tells correspondents that if they pay money to join it, they will be helped in getting office space from the UN. Is this proper?

Less than a quarter of those UNCA took $66,485 from attended this meeting; numerous Executive Committee members did not attend. Pioli bragged of "a larger number of sponsors," but the minutes did not list them. There'll be more on this.

  Meanwhile, UNCA leadership is proposal to downgrade some with "white" UN passed to "green," requiring them to go through a separate entrance and metal detectors. UNCA is responsible for Banning many from entry into the UN.

"UNCA room activities, press conferences and events for 2015" -- Pioli in his last tenure granted the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Palitha Kohona, a former tenant of Pioli in one of his Manhattan apartments, the use of UNCA to screen inside the UN a film denying Rajapaksa government war crimes. It was reporting about this that Pioli ordered Inner City Press to remove from the Internet. There have been no reforms since.

  Now UNCA brags that HRW will use or be used by its space. This is shameful - and we'll have more on it. Pioli sat in on the January 26 noon briefing, apparently to see if any of these outrages would be aired, typically asking no questions at all.

"Social media" - despite Ban's UN purporting to use UNCA to reach all journalists at the UN, the Press is blocked from UNCA's moribund social media presence. Is this attributable to all 15 Executive Committee members? Just Pioli?

 On January 23, Pioli said that the Reuters correspondent who grabbed two questions after Ladsous said "I don't respond to your questions Mister" is in charge of UNCA tweets.

"UNCA soccer" - this involved providing a craven photo op for, yes, Ban Ki-moon

"UNCA Awards 2015" - in December 2014, UNCA gave out an award about Haiti with no mention of the UN bringing cholera there, or UN peacekeepers shooting at democracy demonstrators. Ban Ki-moon was in attendance and they had him take pictures with another of their awardees, which was mischaracterized as  UN award. As with office space, it seems that UNCA sells the UN. 

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has told MALU, but repeats: if they even aspire to legitimacy, the UN must reach out to all journalists, at the UN and ideally beyond, and not that subset which pay UNCA money. That is a decidedly partial subset: a fake wrestling match.

 The UN while throwing out media from workspace gives its UN Censorship Alliance a large room, which it then limits to those that pay it money in dues. Here's how it works: a new media at the UN is told, from the pinnacle of the UN's Censorship Alliance, to pay UNCA $90 and UNCA will get the UN to give the media UN office space.

     Today's UN Censorship Alliance is unlikely to get any meaningful media access problem addressed -- members its Executive Committee have, in fact, caused or colluded in many of the decreases in access. They drafted a rule with MALU to eliminate journalist workspace at the Security Council stakeout; they withheld audio tapes and transcripts of a Ban "interview" with them, even from their own members.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access targeted these censorship practices in a September 29 flier, online, in the UN including on the "open" bulletin board it got the UN to install (the flier was torn down, one can only imagine by whom, but has gone back up.)

   This was described on HuffPost Live, here.)


Share |

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

Click for re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-303, UN, NY 10017 USA

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-2014 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]