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In Ban's UN, Investigative Press Banned & Excluded, Taste of North

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- Is it just those around him, some ask, or does UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself have an aversion to investigative press that is more North than South Korean?

  On March 5 Inner City Press asked Ban a question it had been trying to ask his head of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous since November: when will the UN act on the 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army the UN partners with?

  Ladsous refused to answer, three times on camera, then after advocacy by the new Free UN Coalition for Access took the question from Inner City Press on February 6. He said the UN knew the identify of most of the perpetrators.

  So a month later, with no UN action taken, Inner City Press insisted on a Congo question at Ban's Congo stakeout, and asked when the Ladsous and the UN would finally act on the rapes. Ban's answer was described by many as unimpressive, or entirely vague. But Inner City Press reported it.

   What was the response to this Inner City Press question to Ban Ki-moon?

  It was to spoonfeed an answer, two days later, to friendlier journalists from Reuters and Voice of America -- which late June 20 asked UN official Stephane Dujarric to “review” the UN accreditation of Inner City Press.

This is a sleazy move, not only unfair but designed to discipline the media: if you press too hard, we will give the answers to your questions to others, who didn't even ask.

   Meanwhile, Ban's Media Accreditation unit, through Dujarric, is threatening Inner City Press with false complaints that it impermissibly quoted Reuters' Louis Charbonneau and Pamela Falk of CBS, the “new” president of UNCA, known as the UN's Censorship Alliance. Inner City Press said, "you're on the record," and Falk said, "He's going to write this up." Audio here.

  But here's more: some time ago, Inner City Press was invited by a country's Permanent Representative to an event where Ban Ki-moon let it be known he would be working on a book with author Tom Plate. Inner City Press wrote about it; Ban's spokesperson issued a few non-answers, and it was done.

  Now the book, “Conversations with Ban Ki-Moon” published by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia),is being launched, March 12 at the Princeton Club of New York.

  Inner City Press asked to attend and was told yes, no problem, “you are confirmed for March 12.”

Then yesterday, this: “we need to cut the press list from the event.” That is, don't come.

   Inner City Press replied, “do you mean no press is invited? Or if some media are still invited, which ones?”

   This question was never answered. Rather came the injunction to be sure NOT to try to attend and cover the event: “you will not be on the attendee list and will not gain access to the event.”

   Back in December, Inner City Press conducted stakeout interviews outside the $250 a plate dinner of the UN's Censorship Alliance - so why not now?

   There came a message from the book's author Tom Plate, “you are an important writer around the UN and your site is extremely helpful to all of us in our work. I hope you will accept my apology and consider attending Tuesday night. I personally look forward to welcoming you.”

   An “important writer” -- but one that Ban's Ladsous openly tried to work around, spoonfeeding vague answers to questions Inner City Press asked to friendly journalists -- North Korea style, some day. This is Ban's UN, this is the UN's Censorship Alliance. Watch this site.

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