As Sri Lanka Says No to Conditions, UN Says It Will
Set Them, Journalists and UNESCO
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
March 18 -- The day after it
that the UN has known of at least 2,683 civilians killings in Sri Lanka
between January 20 and March 7 of this year, the UN's expert on
Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy acknowledged the UN is funding the
government's so-called detention camps. Video here,
from Minute 15:43. She said, however, that any long-term
funding should be conditioned on the internally displaced people -- who
Tamils -- have freedom of movement. Currently, they cannot leave the
no one can visit them.
government of Sri Lanka, meanwhile, is opposing
conditions from anyone, including on the $1.8 billion loan they have
from the International Monetary Fund. A
week ago, Inner
City Press asked the IMF's spokesman David Hawley if the Fund was
considering any safeguards that the loans not support the military
the north, on which already one briefing as been held in the UN
Council. Mr. Hawley said to wait and
watch what conditions are imposed. Now
the government says there will be no conditions at all. But will there
Press on Wednesday asked Nicholas Burnett, Assistant Director-General
Education at UNESCO, why his agency, while condemn crackdowns on the
the Philippines and elsewhere has said nothing about the newspaper
locked up during the current conflict, and journalists previously
Burnett said, I can get you an answer. Video here,
from Minute 18:36. Three hours later his
Inner City Press to email the questions, which was done:
As I asked at the briefing
earlier today, what has UNESCO had to say about the recent imprisonment
journalists in Sri Lanka, on which RSF is requesting
This is a specific request, also, for comment on 1)
the killing of a
journalist described at http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30312
and 2) on
the comments which the Sri
Lankan President’s brother, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa made
Vithyatharan in an interview
for ... Australia's Special Broadcasting Service
(SBS). “He is involved in the recent air attack
am telling you if you try to give cover-up for that person you have
your hands,” Rajapaksa said. “And if someone says he is arrested
because he is
in media, that person also has blood on his hands.”
not received the day the question was asked at noon, will be published
site after they are received.
UN's Bank and Sri Lankan President's advisor
and brother, camps not show
For the record, this
has been the UN's response to
the media on the publication of the leaked casualty memo, at the March
Inner City Press: I think it was
last month you’d said that the United Nations doesn’t count bodies, it
helps people; that it didn’t have a count of casualties.
Yesterday, it came into my possession, an
OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] document
unequivocally, the total minimum number of civilian casualties is
including 2,683 deaths. So I am
wondering if in fact OCHA was counting, you know, as I think it
Spokesperson Montas: No, they’re
not counting them directly. What we said
was that we rely on numbers
given to us locally, nationally. We don’t
ourselves count the bodies.
Inner City Press: Right, but I
guess if you had this document (interrupted).
Spokesperson Montas: That was an
estimate, I gather.
Inner City Press: But it says 2683,
so it’s a pretty precise number. And my
understanding from what I gathered is that this is the number and that
United Nations tried not to release the number in order not to offend
Government of Sri Lanka. Is that
Spokesperson: Well, it seems to
be released, since you’re
Inner City Press: Well, yeah, I
got it, so, I mean. But I guess even, my
understanding is in these OCHA briefings that they do -- with some
they didn’t give the number. I guess I
just want to square, first of all, I want to confirm that this is
guess I just want you to say something about it.
Spokesperson: No, I cannot
confirm that. This is an estimate, and you
can talk to OCHA
about how they reached that estimate.
Inner City Press: Is there some
way to know why in some cases the United Nations does provide numbers? Even recently, people have been asking about
the Darfur number, the 300,000 number.
There, they gave a number. Here,
they hid a number. So I don’t
Spokesperson: Well, because
sometimes we don’t have the
information, the exact information to be able to reach even an estimate. It’s just a function of how much information
we get on the ground.
So by the
UN's logic, a government benefits from excluding the press. We'll await
UNESCO's answers. Watch this site.
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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