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As #FreeAJstaff Used in UN Gabfest, Will Ban Raise to al-Sisi?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- While Egypt's sentencing of the three Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison was condemned in the UN on June 25, sometimes sincerely and often self-servingly, Egypt's logic remains alive and well in the UN.

  Troublingly, other imprisoned journalists in Egypt and elsewhere are being ignored. And it remains unclear if UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will be with Egypt's al-Sisi at the African Union summit in Malabo, will even asked to meet Sisi on the topic. Video here; from the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: In his trip to the African Union Summit in Malabo, will the Secretary-General be meeting with President [Abdel Fatah] al-Sisi of Egypt, who’s scheduled to be there? And in that case, will… does he intend and can you say that, now that he will be bringing up the issue of the condemned journalists of Al Jazeera and other journalists, including Coptic and others, condemned in Egypt?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: The Secretary-General’s meetings, obviously, have a bilateral schedule, having accompanied… having attended as an accompanier a number of these summits, the bilaterals are very fluid — some scheduled, some not scheduled. So, what we will do is we will announce them after they happen. My colleague Matias [Gillmann] is there. As soon as something is confirmed, we will be able to confirm it. Obviously, the Secretary-General has in the past spoken out and raised the issue of mass trials, including the conviction of the journalists, with Egyptian authorities. And it is always best to issue a readout after meeting.

Inner City Press: But, has he sought a meeting with President al-Sisi?

Spokesman Dujarric: As I said, you know, once the bilateral happen… these things are truly very fluid, and we will give you a readout as soon as the meetings happen.

  Rather than press Ban, the big-wigs of the old UN Correspondents Association were tweeting at Western ambassadors to please come to the big room the UN gives them, for a "town hall."

  Present there was UNCA's past president, who tried to censor Press coverage of his past financial relationship with Sri Lanka's ambassador; past UNCA board members from Voice of America (which then tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN) and Reuters (who has outright censored his own "for the record" complaint to the UN, getting Google to block it from Search, here).

 In the UN Security Council in the early afternoon of June 25, speakers included Turkey, which at the end of 2013 had fully 40 journalists imprisoned, and Italy, which had one: Francesco Gangemi of Il Dibattito.

   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.

  But on June 25, there were at least two representatives of France's mission to the UN headed to a #FreeAJstaff "town hall."

  The UNCA big-wigs never issued any public letter to Araud for attacking their own dues paying member, in the UN. They wrote to Egypt's Perm Rep, receiving in reply the Deputy, at whom attendees say one of the recent UNCA board members laughed.

   Back in April, 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 board members of old United Nations Correspondents Association has "dragged its feet" on any defense of its own dues paying member from Lebanon. But now they scheduled an "Emergency Town Hall meeting" on the Al Jazeera case, tweeting photos of themselves with Western mission spokespeople.

  UNCA head Pam Falk 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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