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At UN, Logic of Egypt's Jailing of AJ Staff Lives On, Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- While Egypt's sentencing of the three Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison is being condemned in the UN, sometimes sincerely and sometimes self-servingly, Egypt's logic is alive and well.

   In the UN Press Briefing Room on April 15, 2014, outgoing French Ambassador Gerard Araud told a Lebanese reporter, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent" -- Egypt's logic.

   Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric if he would convey to Araud and the French mission the stated position that reporters should be treated with respect. Dujarric declined.
   The old United Nations Correspondents Association has "dragged its feet" on any defense of its own dues paying member from Lebanon. But now it schedules an "Emergency Town Hall meeting" on the Al Jazeera case.

  In fact, UNCA executive committee members have tried to get reporting they didn't like removed from the Internet, about a financial link between Sri Lanka's ambassador and UNCA's head and the latter unilaterally holding an "UNCA" screening of a Rajapaksa government film denying war crimes.

  When censorship failed, UNCA executive committee members tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN - one of them later made a Digital Millennium Copyright Act sworn statement to Google that his "for the record" complaint was copyrighted - and got it banned from search: censorship.

  Now this UN Censorship Alliance schedules an "Emergency Town Hall meeting" on the Al Jazeera case. Watch this site.

 On June 24 the UN Development Program, which under Helen Clark is moving for massive layoffs of its staff, held a press conference in UN Headquarters, very rare for UNDP.

  But avoiding questions on layoffs, UNDP set aside the first question for Pamela Falk of CBS, for UNCA. Falk's softball question ignored what Palau's representative said on the record in February. Will CBS be reporting on this press conference, or was the question essentially wasted such that layoffs could not be asked about?

  Then the UNDP spokesperson gave Falk's sidekick the second -- and LAST, he said -- question, which was wasted on a mere follow up to Falk's. Inner City Press objected to the mere two question press conference; it and the Free UN Coalition for Access formally oppose the setting aside of the first (and here, second and last) question for UNCA a/k/a the UN's Censorship Alliance.

Under Falk, even more than under her rarely present predecessor, UNCA has taken to branding and claiming the first question press conferences and even stakeouts, even if Falk does NO reporting on the topic.

  On June 24, Falk lamely asked exactly the same question that had already been asked, not only about illicit financial flows but even the important topic of the journalists in jail in Egypt. Al Jazeera had already asked, but Falk asked exactly the same question (when there were many real questions to ask about the jailing and the wan response by the UN, whose credibility on press freedom is in question -- for example, in Sri Lanka.)

  Falk then tweeted that #JournalismIsNotACrime -- strange, from a person who shouted in a meeting she'd already said she knew would be reported, on the record, that covering her and UNCA made a one not a reporter but a “mugger” -- audio here, here and here.

  Again, that is the logic used by Egypt, that if you don't like coverage, the reporter is not a journalist but a criminal, or mugger. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance.

Footnote: After UNCA's Falk and Evelyn Leopold wasted the two and only questions at UNDP, mid-layoffs, they had UN (and former UNDP) Spokesman Stephane Dujarric's office squawk over the loudspeaker system that UNCA would be showing the World Cup in the large room the UN gives it, usually to sit empty, while the UN evicted the News Agency of Nigeria for lack of space. Here is background on UNCA's television games under Falk. Watch this site.


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