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Ban's Spox Pick Raises Questions of Censorship, Due Process, Impartiality

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- Putting a face on the succession of UN spokespeople, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came to the noon briefing on February 19 to announce that Stephane Dujarric is slated to take over from Martin Nesirky on March 10.  Video here, from Minute 4:10.

  The pick raises a number of questions that will be explored in the next 19 days. But threshold questions include the need for impartiality, the need to strictly separate the roles of spokesperson and Media Accreditation, and Dujarric's position on, and role in, censorship.

  The last, on censorship, is something of a litmus test.

   In his current position which includes overseeing UN Media Accreditation, Dujarric received (and in some cases appears to have solicited) anti-Press complaints.

  Despite a subsequent request by the New York Civil Liberties Union, Dujarric has yet to agree that the UN should provide due process to journalists who are subjects of complaints by competitors: to be notified of and have a right to respond to the complaints, in a content neutral and impartial system.

  One of the complaints addressed to and received by Dujarric was from Lou Charbonneau, then as now Reuters UN bureau chief. The complaint said that it was "for the record" (UN Media Accreditation still does not acknowledge a journalist's right to see his or her Accreditation record including complaints).

 As elsewhere in the UN, anonymous whistleblowers and leakers attempt to substitute for rights of due process and transparency.

Inner City Press obtained a number of the complaints, including the first of Charbonneau's complaints and another under the US Freedom of Information Act.

  But in August 2013, despite the fact that Charbonneau's first complaint said it was "for the record," Charbonneau made a Digital Millennium Copyright Act filing with Google, claiming that

"The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here:"

  A complaint to UN Media Accreditation, particularly saying that it is "for the record," is not plausibly subject to copyright -- Reuters' ill-logic would apply to any leaked document. But Charbonneau filed the above-quoted under oath, and his "for the record" complaint to Dujarric has been blocked -- or banned -- from Google's search.

   This is censorship. What is Dujarric's position on it?

  After discovering under the Freedom of Information Act that not only Reuters / Louis Charbonneau, Agence France-Presse and Voice of America but "UNCA" had met with Dujarric's Media Accreditation pushing to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN -- Dujarric never notified Inner City Press of this -- along with another independent media Inner City Press founded the alternative Free UN Coalition for Access.

  Dujarric was put in charge of "dealing" with FUNCA, and among other things sent a letter attempt to preclude it from working on reform. It drove a wedge between FUNCA and the wider Department of Public Information, but FUNCA's work has continued, as far away as Somaliland and including through @FUNCA_info as close as the privatized or outsourced UNTV webcast that Dujarric has also been in charge of.

  To have not been impartial, to have insisted particularly despite this history on a "one party" system, was not appropriate while atop UN Media Accreditation - but it would be impermissible to continue, allow or enable as UN Spokesperson.

  A question now is to ensure that as spokesperson, Dujarric plays absolutely no more role in UN Media Accreditation, an essential separately of powers. Along with questions of favoritism and censorship, these issues will continue to be explored as March 10 approaches. Watch this site.


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