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UN Censorship Extends to W Sahara & Cameroon, ICP Asks, Attributable to UN DPI Smale

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope; Video

UNITED NATIONS, October 6 – Senior UN officials claim they care about and want coverage of stand-offs like those in Western Sahara, Cameroon and Yemen, then block and hinder Press coverage while taking public money to pursue their largely European interests. A recent case, taken up on October 5 by the Free UN Coalition for Access, involves a journalist for RASD TV, a Western Sahara / Saharawi television station. On October 6, Inner City Press for FUNCA asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: it’s a media access question, and it’s not about me.  It has to do with a journalist from Saharawi Media, RASD TV, who applied a month ago to be accredited to cover the UN, including this month when Western Sahara is on the Council’s agenda.  And he received a denial that said that you can only be accredited here if you’re with an organization formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the UN General Assembly.  So I know some people think of this as sort of the Taiwan rule.  But is it true, is it the case that this rule is also applied to Western Sahara which, although not a country yet, is party to a conflict on the Security Council's agenda... Spokesman:  I don’t… I’ll look into it. Inner City Press: the second part of the policy question is:  Given the propensity of some governments to… to dislike, decertify, and close down and media, including in Cameroon, why does the UN… I could understand them saying we need to… we, as the UN, say this is a media organization, but why does a media organization have to be approved by its own government, which is what the line quoted to this individual implies? Spokesman:  "I will look into the issue." Seven hours later, nothing. And still no Smale-mail, see below. The UN Security Council is set this month for its semi-annual consideration of Western Sahara and the MINURSO mission, with new UN envoy Horst Kohler. But despite the fact that the UN Department of Public Information accredits and gives office space to numerous Moroccan state media, it delayed for a month and then denied the application of the journalist for RASD TV, saying they didn't represent an "organization formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly."  Western Sahara is on the agenda of the UN's Fourth (Decolonization) Committee. We'll have more on this scam by the UN and its DPI, which as before driven by its largely European concerns, and still restricts the independent, critical Press, trying to give its office to no-show, no-question state media like Akhbar al Yom. Meanwhile the UN is silent again as the Internet and social networks are cut off in parts of Cameroon, to prevent organizing and reporting. On September 29, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the UN's support for Cameroon's Paul Biya, and about the UN Security surveillance camera over the area the UN tells Inner City Press to work from after evicting it from its long-time UN office. Video here, transcript here and below. Dujarric dodged the Cameroon question, and refused to answer on surveillance, saying only the UN Department of Public Information could answer. But they won't - the new head of DPI Alison Smale has not responded to four detailed petitions about her Department's restrictions on Press, and is focused beyond Germany on aspirations in Catalonia, not Cameroon. This is today's UN. From its September 29 transcript: Inner City Press: There’s a UN security DSS [Department of Safety and Security] camera over the media bullpen here, and I wanted to know whether there are any safeguards, given what the UN says about freedom of the press, given what the Secretary-General said about the protection of whistleblowers.  What protections are there in place for how this footage is, in fact, used by the UN?  Spokesman: "This is a question you need to raise with our colleagues in MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit]." Before the just-concluded UN General Assembly Ministerial Week, Inner City Press wrote to UN Department of Public Information chief Alison Smale explaining how the eviction and restrictions imposed by her predecessor Cristina Gallach would result in censorship and a reduction in coverage during the Week. There was no response. From the very first day of the GA week, an event about migration no less, Inner City Press was arbitrarily banned. And on the Friday of the Week, Smale's DPI minders told Inner City Press it could not, as other less active correspondents could, speak to participants in the UN's (politicized) meeting about the humanitarian situation, just as it was also restricted in its coverage of Cameroon and other issues. This was raised to Smale the next day, when UN officials and diplomats were working (although many of Smale's "resident correspondents" like Egypt's Akhbar al Yom, Pakistan's Daily Dawn and others didn't even come in). But again from Smale, no reforms, no response. Perhaps this was due to the elections in her former beat, Germany. But these issues are her responsibility; she is being paid for this. Here's our September 23 Smale-mail: "Dear Under Secretary General Smale: This follows up on the request / petition I sent you earlier this month, before the now-concluding UN General Assembly High Level Week. My unjustifiable lack of resident correspondent status, which I had asked be restored before the High Level Week, has resulted for example in me being barred from speaking with attendees outside yesterday's Yemen humanitarian meeting. Resident Correspondents, including those who rarely come in and never ask questions, like Akhbar al Yom, were given access to passes to the 1B level, without escorts. For me, whose resident correspondent accreditation was taken without a hearing or appeal for pursuing the UN bribery story by covering a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room, two separate escorts or minders were required to access the Yemen meeting. While inside the meeting I was told I could stakeout / wait outside the meeting and speak to participants as they left, my DPI minders told me I could not speak with anyone, even diplomats who wanted to speak. I reiterate my formal request to be restored to my longtime shared office S303 (I am willing to help rarely present Akhbar al Yom to relocate to the bullpen or wherever else), and to have my resident correspondent accreditation restored, early this coming week. I can provide any further information, by email, phone or in person. (By contrast, the only event Egypt state media Akhbar al Yom “covered” was the SG - Sisi bilateral, as UNCA “pool;” when I asked DPI's MALU for basic information such as who attended or was observed at the bilat, none was provided.) For your information during this High Level Week I put questions to the foreign minister of Libya, the UN's Libya envoy, the UK minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt (on Yemen), the head of UNRWA, the head of UNHCR (on Burundi), SRSG Louise Arbour (on Libya) and, as you saw, the EC minister and Deputy Secretary General. More could be said, but this should be enough. To continue to restrict my movements in the UN more than other journalist, to keep me out of my long time office such that I can barely and sometimes not download and edit video of these Q&A, in favor of a no-show, no-question state media is UNjustifiable. It should be reversed today, or early next week. Today Saturday I am writing this while covering the Secretary General's bilateral meetings on the 27th floor, if you are in the UN and need any further information. If you don't mind, please confirm receipt of this email." Not even that. Now the UN Security Council won't even hold a single Yemen meeting in September, despite its members' professions of concern. When a Yemen meeting during the UN General Assembly week was held at 8 am on September 22, new UN Relief Chief Mark Lowcock introduced as speakers the foreign ministers of Sweden and the Netherlands, representatives of Japan and the UAE, and the UN's dubious envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed. While billed as a humanitarian meeting, the UAE spoke without irony about outside interference. (Yemen's representative spoke in Arabic; Inner City Press streamed Periscope video). To get to the meeting, held in UN Conference Room 5, Inner City Press unlike other no-show reporters like Egypt's Akhbar al Yom was required to get a UN escort or minder, who told Inner City Press it could not ask questions or speak with anyone. This despite UN OCHA telling Inner City Press it could wait outside and speak to people as they left. So the UN's retaliatory eviction of Inner City Press for covering UN corruption now results in it, unlike the Saudi and pro-Saudi media in the meeting, being unable to speak to the participants. This is today's UN - it has been directly raised to the new head of DPI, Alison Smale, without response as she focuses on the election on her previous beat, Germany. Now this, from the UNSC: "The briefing and consultation on Yemen is postponed for next month and we'll have no meeting scheduled tomorrow afternoon." Pathetic. As it this: while Canada joins The Netherlands at the UN in Geneva in calling for an investigation of possible war crimes in Yemen including the Saudi-led coalition's killing of civilians, Canada has continued a $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference at the UN on September 21, Inner City Press went early, intending to ask him to explain this incongruity or seeming hypocrisy. Trudeau's spokesman announced that the questioners had been “pre-determined,” but did not explain how. So in a lull after what the spokesman called the last question - would Trudeau be a mediator on Venezuela - Inner City Press asked about Canadian arms sales to Saudi while calling for a probe. At first Trudeau said he was happy to answer the question. Then he said no, he would not reward “bad behavior,” and instead reached out for question in French about day care. (Inner City Press notes that pre-determining questioners is bad behavior. Apparently the CBC journalist who was given the first question agreed to it; the organization only the day before sent an Egyptian state media correspondent as the lone “pooler” in Secretary General Antonio Guterres' meeting with General Sisi.) Eearlier on September 21 when UK minister Alistair Burt came in front of the UN Security Council to speak about accountability for Daesh in Iraq, Inner City Press deferred to a timely question about the referendum in Kurdistan. Then during  lull - identical to that in which it put its question to Trudeau - Inner City Press asked Burt about his quote, about accountability for the bombing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led Coalition with UK bombs, that "Our view is that it is for the Coalition itself, in the first instance, to conduct such investigations. They have the best insight into their own military procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations.” Inner City Press asked how he can say this, given that the Saudis have investigated less than five percent of the killings. Video here. Burt's answer focused on the peace process - what peace process? At least Burt answered, and did not like Trudeau try to call merely asking the question in a lull "bad behavior" - we'll have more on this.


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