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UN Censored on World Press Freedom Day Like Others, UNAOC Like DPI, FAO and WIPO

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 – The UN's celebration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 ghoulishly featured a UN official who has refused to respond for six months to 5,000 petitions to review her Department's eviction and restriction of investigative Inner City Press, here. At the same time there was to be an event of the "UN Alliance of Civilizations," headed by Qatar's former Ambassador to the UN Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and featuring CNN's Brian Stelter. The event was canceled to protect Egypt and Turkey, see below; Inner City Press asked Stelter for his understanding and he said he was looking into it. At least he replied - UN Secretary General Alison Smale's "Global Communicator" Alison Smale devoted her question and answer session to pre-picked questions, which weren't questions at all. The UN Correspondents Association, which long had a Turkish vice president who attended UN briber Ng Lap Seng's event in Macau, managed in response to one of the pre-picked questions to refer to the censorship without naming the groups. No wonder - UNCA for a long time had a Turkish state media vice president, who now works directly for Turkey's foreign minister. At the May 4 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq what Guterres will do about entities like UNAOC which have UN in their name but are creatures of just a few states, who can use them to for example censor and, again, about criminal defamation initiatives by FAO and WIPO. Haq doubled down, that UN entities can use criminal defamation. That's today's UN. The day before at the May 3 noon briefing, at least four journalists - the same as on May 4 - questioned Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the cancellation. Haq said he was told by the UNAOC (spokesperson Nihal Saad) that it was merely a timing issue but that he had pressed the matter. Inner City Press asked him about UN FAO and WIPO going after critical media using criminal defamation laws. Haq replied that UN agencies, like individuals, are free to use the legal system in this way. As Inner City Press was seeking to ask Haq how this is different from the criminal prosecution of journalists in and by Turkey and Egypt, Haq tried to shift to another questioner. Minutes later, Inner City Press asked the spokesman of President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak for his view. He said Lajcak learned of the cancellation from Inner City Press and, while concerned, doesn't have all the facts. He said Lajack's speech, here, contains his views. After the briefing it emerged that group who have done little to nothing on the UN's own censorship are now virtue-signaling on the UNAOC cancellation. We'll have more on this. For now, the near 6 pm statement from UNAOC, whose comment Inner City Press requested 20 hours ago: "Since we have been receiving queries from journalists regarding the event planned for today May 3, 2018, entitled “From News Literacy to ‘Newsgames’: Conversations Celebrating World Press Freedom Day”, we would like to clarify that we did not cancel our May 3 event as alleged, but instead decided to postpone it. The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is currently working actively to secure a conference room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, as well as coordinating with the same panelists regarding the new date. We remain fully committed to press freedom and using it responsibly. We had issued a statement to that end yesterday May 2nd that was circulated to the media explaining that the initial date and time for the aforementioned event conflicted with a high-level event hosted by UNESCO and DPI commemorating World Press Freedom Day, with the participation of the Secretary-General, as well as the President of the General Assembly. Subsequently, the number of registrations for UNAOC’s panel was lower than expected, with several RSVPs deferred by the participants themselves at the last minute. Upon reviewing the video that the News Literacy Project (NLP) submitted only one day before the event, we saw that it was unbalanced. We, therefore, asked NLP to either make a comprehensive presentation of all countries where press freedom is limited, or to remove reference to specific countries that had been singled out in their report, to ensure objectivity and a more comprehensive representation." So it's apparently all or nothing. The UNAOC event was (to have been) "From News Literacy to ‘Newsgames’: Conversations Celebrating World Press Freedom Day" - On the occasion of 2018 World Press Freedom Day, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is collaborating with the News Literacy Project (NLP) in organizing two panel discussions  on  May 3, 2018. The first  panel will feature prominent journalists and educators and it will focus on the role of press freedom internationally." But the NFP says, "The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) indefinitely postponed an event at the U.N. tomorrow to observe World Press Freedom Day after the News Literacy Project (NLP) refused UNAOC’s request to remove references in our presentation to several countries where press freedom is limited.

The references are in videos from a new lesson on international press freedoms in our Checkology® virtual classroom, which I was planning to introduce at the event. The videos include remarks by lesson host Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of NPR about severe restrictions on press freedom in Turkey, Mexico and Egypt and comments by Russian and Pakistani journalists describing the challenges they face. NLP submitted the presentation to UNAOC on Monday so it would be ready to be shared with the audience. A UNAOC official then asked us to delete the reference to Turkey — which, along with Spain, had proposed the creation of UNAOC in 2005 — and the official later insisted that NLP not share any of the video clips... In an email today, UNAOC told the panelists and more than 150 registered attendees that the long-planned event was being postponed “until future notice” because of another event at the U.N. scheduled at the same time." Here is the referenced press release, about which Inner City Press has submitted questions to UNAOC's spokesperson: "Dear Colleagues, I would like to inform you that UNAOC’s event, From news literacy to news games to journalism cartoons: Conversations celebrating World Press Freedom Day, planned for May 3, 2018  at 10:00 am  is postponed and will be re-scheduled for a later date.  Despite efforts to change the time of the event, we cannot proceed without coming into conflict with the annually held high level event hosted by UNESCO and DPI commemorating World Press Freedom Day which will include the participation of the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly. We apologize for this short notice but will notify you as soon as an alternative date and time is identified." Inner City Press wrote to the spokesperson of UNAOC: "This is a request on deadline for your comment / response that UNAOC asked that  panel delete mention of press oppression in Turkey, Egypt, etc - and separately, that this is related to the cancellation." So far, nothing. Guterres will in fact not participate, at least not in person. And ironically, the event reference itself has a censorship component (which hasn't led to Inner City Press not reporting the above) -- It will feature an official of the UN Correspondents Association (whose previous vice president used it to lobby for Turkey for whom he now works)  -- a state media scribe who recently tried to cut off other journalists so she could get more quotes praising her country and its contributions to UN Peacekeeping. Here's the program:

Moderator Alison Smale
Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI)

Opening Remarks
Mr. António Guterres
United Nations Secretary-General (Video Message)

H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajcák
President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly

H.E. Mr. Jan Kickert
Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations
Chair of the United Nations General Assembly Committee on Information

Ms. Melissa Kent
CBC Radio-Canada, Second Vice President of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)

Ms. Nicole Stremlau
Lead Researcher, UNESCO Report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development; University of Oxford and University of Johannesburg

Opening Remarks
H.E. Mr. François Delattre
Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

Mr. Ramu Damodaran
Deputy Director for Partnerships and Public Engagement
Chief, United Nations Academic Impact, Outreach Division, DPI

Ms. Marie Bourreau
Journalist, Correspondent for Le Monde and Radio France Internationale (RFI) at the United Nations in New York

   It is similar ot the hypocrisy of the UN preaching about accountability while refusing to pay a penny to the victims of the cholera it brought to Haiti, and refusing to hold accountable its peacekeepers who rape in South Sudan (or use blue helmets while burning homes in Cameroon. Amid the worsening crackdown by the army of 36-year Cameroon president Paul Biya in the country's Anglophone areas, a video has circulated depicting soldiers burning down homes. Click here for one upload of it. Noted by many residents and activists: blue helmet of the type used by UN peacekeepers. On April 30 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the video, the day after publishing a story about it, in Google News. Dujarric said he hadn't seen the video but militaries should to use UN equipment or colors, presumably when burning civilians homes down. Video here; from the UN transcript: Inner City Press: a video emerged over the weekend from Cameroon showing or depicting soldiers burning people's homes in the Anglophone areas, and what… what a lot of people focused on is that one of them, at least, is wearing a blue helmet.  I don't think it means the UN is doing it, but I do wonder, what are the rules?  I wanted to ask you, what are the rules if people have served in UN peacekeeping missions… have you seen the video?

Spokesman:  "I haven't seen that particular video, so I can't comment on the particular helmet, whether it was just blue or a UN helmet.  We have seen, in different parts of the world, various security forces and army… we've seen reports of them using equipment that they own, which had been painted white or blue and reused domestically.  It is a responsibility to ensure that no equipment that has UN markings is ever used in any domestic operation.  But, again, I'm not… that's a matter… that's an issue of principle.  I haven't… I can't comment on that specific report." Hours later, still nothing.

  The lack of confidence in the UN in these areas, and on this issue, was inflamed as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in October 2017 stopped by Yaounde on his way from the Central African Republic (where the UN pays Biya's government for peacekeepers who have been charged with sexual abuse). Guterres did not meet with any opposition figures, and accepted a golden statue from Biya.

  Guterres' envoy Francois Lounceny Fall has publicly said that secessionist are extremists, the word used by Biya to justify the scorched earth strategy exemplified by the video. Inner City Press asked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zaid why his Office hasn't updated the death figures and he claimed it was because the UN has no access.

  Guterres' humanitarian Assistant Secretary General Ursula Mueller visited Cameroon, but not the Anglophone areas. (Inner City Press asked her why, here). Human Rights Watch didn't even include Cameroon in its 2018 “World Report,” and told Inner City Press this is because it does not view it as among the 90 most serious problems in the world.

   Guterres' Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed as in Abuja in her native Nigeria when 47 Cameroonians were illegally sent back by the Buhari government. Buhari will be in Washington on April 30 and a protest of Ambazonians is planned. Earlier in April, Inner City Press asked the US State Department about the refoulement to Cameroon and received a day later a statement. But what will happen on this video, and on the underlying issues? Watch this site.


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