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On Yemen, Dujarric Denies DPA Witch Hunt, Claims Free Press Amid Eviction Bid

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- A month before the one year anniversary of the Saudi-led Coalition's campaign of airstrikes on Yemen, Inner City Press exclusively published, not for the first time, an email leaked to it between UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeff Feltman.

  As Inner City Press subsequently reported, Feltman conducted questioning -- some called it a witch hunt -- of DPA staff to try to find out who had leaked it to Inner City Press.

 On March 28, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had refused to let Inner City Press asked Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed a single question at his length press conference at the UN, Ban's top lawyer issued a threat of imminent eviction threat to Inner City Press, here.

  Not surprisingly, particularly given Feltman's questioning, some viewed the UN's escalation against Inner City Press as a response to its publication of UN leaks.

 On March 29, Feltman wrote to Inner City Press and we publish it in full:

"Dear Matthew,

On Yemen:  Your job is to publish what you consider to be news.  My job includes the protection of what is UN sensitive information.  So we are naturally going to be at odds over things such as leaked e-mails; that's just part of the respective roles we play.  I don't blame you for publishing what you had -- were I a journalist, I would likely do the same -- but you are surely sophisticated enough not to be surprised that I would try to stop leaks.  

As for your status at the UN, you are of course welcome to continue to send e-mails to me, but, as I expect you know, others, not DPA, have the appropriate responsibilities in this case.  DPA is not involved.

Jeffrey Feltman
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
United Nations, New York"

 Feltman cc-ed his spokesman, who ironically used to work at Amnesty International. Feltman's statement that the retaliation against Inner City Press is only attributable to Cristina Gallach's DPI and now Miguel de Serpa Soares' OLA does not wash.

  Inner City Press has written back to Feltman, in part that:

"Meant to thank you for your response, at least the part acknowledging that publishing leaks is (some of) what journalists do - spend much of the day dealing with new exclusions to access, unable to cover a meeting in Trusteeship, even an event in the GA / Visitors Lobby.

I raised my accreditation cut without due process to you after I woke up to news of a protest of USG Gallach's decision in Jaffna. I view DPA's work as among the substantive work of the UN; DPI is more in a service role, akin to the relation between DPKO and DFS.

If you were to think and say that this arbitrary accreditation cut causes problems for the UN, or problems in communities the UN cares about, I feel sure it would be reversed. And I think it has and will continue to cause harm. That's the basis of my request to you -- that and that a UN system for journalists with no rights whatsoever, to due process or appeals, undercuts the UN's credibility.

And in this case, all I was doing was trying to cover in the UN Press Briefing Room an event, which I believed and believe is related to the ongoing John Ashe, Ng Lap Seng et al corruption scandal - that is, journalism. This totally disproportionate response is what indicates, to me and others, retaliation.

Without undercutting that point, which I hope someone has some impact in the real world, on leaks I'd think more of a technological solution, like documents that disappear after they are read, rather than questioning people. Since the UN, to my chagrin, doesn't have a FOIA, self-erasing documents would be no problem.

Mostly, if you see that the protests in Jaffna, and the acting Res Rep's disingenuous response to the Northern Provincial Councilor, are indicative as are responses from some in Burundi, and about Yemen and Western Sahara, of harm from the accreditation cut and office seizure, please make that known to those who can and should reverse the decision."


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