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UN Ban on Free Expression But For "Common Purpose," Or Can't Be Protected

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- Now according to the UN, freedom of expression can only be protected when what is said is for "common purpose," according to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a press conference on Wednesday.

This makes a mockery of press freedom: it will only be supported by the UN when the UN likes what is being said. Here is what Ban said, according to the UN's own transcript:

"Freedom of expression should be and must be guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice, common purpose. When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way."

  Also triggered by this UN's ambivilent position on freedom of the press, the UN has been asked, similarly, what content-neutral rules it has for accrediting journalists.  

Under Ban Ki-moon, the UN's top peacekeeping official Herve Ladsous has said he will not answer any questions from Inner City Press, because he does not like its previous coverage, which has concerned rape and abuse by peacekeepers and Ladsous' proposal for the UN to use drones.

 The last three heads of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations have been from France, and so then-President Nicolas Sarkozy was given le droit to name the fourth.

  Sarkozy chose Jerome Bonnafont, a flashy French diplomat then Ambassador to India. But Bonnafont made the mistake of bragging that he had the job, and Inner City Press heard and reported it. Suddenly Bonnafont was out, and without any interview, without any review, bland bureaucrat Herve Ladsous was given the job.

  What were Ladsous' credentials? He had arranged the flights of Michele Aliot-Marie on planes of cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. Aliot-Marie left in disgrace: but Ladsous was sent to the UN.

  Here, when asked about the Tunisia flights, he refused to answer. He soon proposed another form of flight for the UN, the use of drones, but wouldn't say who would get the information gathered by the drones. Then he decided that the Press which asked these questions would be cut off - until he either shifted to positive coverage, or was banished.

  But that's not how it's supposed to work, at least under the First Amendment. And so questions kept being asked -- about a politicized pull-out from Syria, about cholera in Haiti, about peacekeepers' negligence and even recruitment of murderous militias in the Congo -- and Ladsous just kept refusing to answer or even to acknowledge the questions. Video here, from Minute 5:06.

  Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office tried to say this didn't matter, they would get answers for DPKO. But this substitution didn't work. Former UN Department of Field Support boss Susana Malcorra became Ban's chief of staff, and still nothing changed.

  Basically, once a top UN position has been ceded to a Permanent Five member of the Security Council, they can send anyone. Anyone at all. It undermines any concept of meritocracy or transparency at the UN. But that doesn't seem to matter. Ladsous came to run the UN's main department into the ground, and he has been worse for the UN than having NO ONE in the job. But France voted for Ban Ki-moon so they get the job, and they chose Ladsous.

   But wasn't it Sarkozy who chose Ladsous? What does Francois Hollande say? What does Jan Eliasson say? Many others are bought in, or are ignoring the Ladsous circus -- but some aren't.

  To Ladsous and it seems Ban, freedom of the press including to question is only guaranteed if the questions are deemed by them to be "for common justice, common purpose." But who defines these? Watch this site.

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