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With Press UNprotected in Ethiopia, Burundi & UN, Hypocrisy of UNCA Prez

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- When the UN "celebrated" World Press Freedom Day on May 1, the speeches all sounded good. But there were inconsistencies large and small.

  In Ethiopia, for example, the government has arrested nine journalists including six Zone 9 bloggers. Inner City Press, including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, has twice asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric for any UN comment. There has been none. The UN has a big office in Addis Ababa and wants to stay there.

In Burundi, two journalists are being hauled before the courts for publishing a UN cable, which Inner City Press put online here, which warned of the governing party arming its youth wing. Inner City Press and FUNCA asked Dujarric for any comment: there was none.

  Likewise on May 1 from Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, when Inner City Press asked him about the Burundi journalists, no comment.

But right inside the UN, journalism in under fire. For example on April 15, Ambassador Gerard Araud of Permanent Security Council member France told a reporter, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent." Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Dujarric to convey to Araud (and to his forthcoming successor Jacques Audibert) the stated position that correspondents should be respected. But this has not happened.

  The attacked correspondent tells FUNCA that the old UN Correspondents Association, to which he pays dues and on whose Executive Committee he and Inner City Press used to serve (Inner City Press, disgusted, quit) that UNCA is "dragging its feet."

  It's a pattern: UNCA executive committee members angered at an Inner City Press reporting about Sri Lanka and conflicts of interest tried to get Inner City Press thrown out, including of the UN. Then UNCA executive committee Louis Charbonneau of Reuters got a leaked copy of his "for the record" complaint to the UN blocked from Google's Search, claiming it was private under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, here. This is outright censorship.

  And so it was particularly hypocritical, but typically UN, that UNCA's 2013-2014 president Pamela Falk of CBS sat on the UN's #WPFD panel, speechifying about freedom of information even after she and her board withheld the tape and transcript of a one hour Q&A session with Ban Ki-moon from which they used quotes.

  No new hashtag can make up for this. These are insiders; this is not freedom of the press. This is the problem, and the new Free UN Coalition for Access will continue to confront it, inside the UN and beyond. Watch this site, and this one.


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