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As UN Lets Ladsous Stonewall on Rapes, Spin to UN Radio, DPI Stands By

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- The UN's communications strategies and deception have been hitting new lows.

 Take as an example the UN's handling of its recalcitrant chief of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous and the 126 rapes in Minova from November 20 to 22, 2012 by his partners in the Congolese Army.

  Right on UN Television, managed by the UN Department of Public Information, Ladsous refused to answer Inner City Press' question about the rapes on November 27.

  While UN TV didn't catch what happened next, Inner City Press with a hand-held camera did. Ladsous took three favored scribes, all of them “leaders” in the United Nations Correspondents Association, out into the hallway for a private briefing. Video here.

The UN and DPI did nothing about that, nor when Ladsous repeated the stonewalling about the rapes on December 7. Video here.

  Is it any wonder, then, that on December 18 Ladsous went further, directing his spokesman to grab the UNTV microphone to try to prevent Inner City Press from even asking the question? Video here.

  After that, Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access wrote a letter of complaint to the head of DPI, which controls UNTV and its microphone.

Without for now getting into the details, what was the outcome? DPI's Stephane Dujarric weeks later told FUNCA that he had spoken privately with Ladsous' spokesman -- not even with Ladsous -- about the microphone grabbing.

  Nothing was said publicly about journalists' rights by DPI, which is also in charge of accrediting reporters to allow them to enter the UN.

  FUNCA presented the head of DPI with a list of ten proposed amendments and reforms to the Accreditation Rules and Media Access Guidelines, on which DPI has until now only partnered with UNCA, now known as the UN Censorship Alliance.

  Despite numerous assurances, the reforms have yet to be implemented.

  Flash forward to this past month. After Ladsous' stonewalling on the rapes for four months, after Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon about the rapes on March 5, Ladsous' DPKO gave a half answer to his favored hallway scribes, from Reuters and AFP, Tim “Hallway” Witcher.

But after follow-ups (and a spurious complaint by AFP and Reuters for being called, accurately, Ladsous' lapdogs), more was needed.

On March 18, DPI led a raid on Inner City Press' office, without notice or consent; UNCA's president Pamela Falk took photographs and it now appears that other non-UN persons were allowed in.

  Despite repeated requests, DPI has refused to disclose who it let into Inner City Press' office. Why not?

After the raid, one reform agreed to by DPI -- a non-UNCA bulletin board -- had all of the fliers taken down, including fliers which questioned DPI's performance. Meanwhile all of UNCA's material is left up on the UNCA-only bulletin board.

  On the Minova rapes, Ladsous went even more in-house, or in-grown: he gave an interview to UN Radio thence to the UN's Radio Okapi. Ladsous' microphone grabbing spokesman repacked a noon briefing answer; Reuters Louis Charbonneau typed it up.

  Finally (for now) on April 2 the deal the UN sold out the Minova victims for was reported on the UN's own UN News Service, like UN Radio, under the command of DPI.

Should it now be known as the UN Department of Propaganda Information?

Footnote: in fairness, under DPI's current chief some “brown-bag” sessions with UN envoys and others have been held; some have been newsworthy and it's appreciated.

  But it does not make up for Ladsous' outrageous stonewalling, which DPI has enabled (for example following the December 18 microphone grab) and now by having Ladsous while he refuses independent Press questions to spin on UN Radio. What does DPI stand for?

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