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As Bangladesh Cancels Press Accreditations, UN Does Nothing, Not Involved

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 -- Amid the violence in Bangladesh, Inner City Press has five times asked the UN how it reviews whether the military personnel it uses from Bangladesh have not been involved in human rights violations. February 5 videoUN's February 20 transcript; February 23 transcript, video here.

  Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access have also asked about freedom of expression in Bangladesh - and relatedly at the UN, when a journalist asking questions at the UN had his media blocked back in Bangladesh.

  While the UN Spokesman replied that he had spoken with the journalist in questions -- which was not the point -- from elsewhere in the UN to the request for action, no response. Now the journalist and four colleagues have had their accreditations pulled.

 Inner City Press on March 5 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN had any involvement in a statement urging de-escalation issued by a group of Ambassadors in Dhaka. I am not aware that we have any involvement in that, the UN Spokesman replied. Video here. Why not?

  Why didn't UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, who spent days in Myanmar then Sri Lanka, make a push to visit Bangladesh at this time? Did he? His office has not answered questions about his Sri Lanka trip, but Dujarric says he will answer questions on March 6. Only about Ukraine? Watch this site.

  The UN makes many vague and grandiose statements about its commitment to freedom of the press. But when a journalist who asked questions at its noon briefing about Bangladesh had his family's house in Dhaka visited by the authorities, and his media's website blocked, what did the UN do?

  Not much, it seems. After asking the UN Spokesperson and others in the UN in writing, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric what he or the UN had done. Video here.

  All that Dujarric would say is that he had spoken with the journalist. But what does that accomplish? Anything said publicly? Or (next story) to the country? Apparently not.

  On February 28 Inner City Press for FUNCA asked the Spokesperson:

1) [The journalist] who has been asking questions about Bangladesh at the noon briefing of late and about whom Inner City Press asked on February 27 now says that his media has now been blocked in Bangladesh, and he fears for the safety of his spouse and two children there.

On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, any UN comment? Or action?

2) please explain the correction today by your office, changing “saddened” to “condemn” -- was any complain received by the UN about the failure to condemn? Was the initial (or second) statement prepared by the Department of Political Affairs?

Finally, where are the Sri Lanka read-outs requested by Inner City Press and seemingly promised on Friday, Feb 27? This is an ongoing request.

 And only this answer came: "the statement resissue was due clerical error on our part. Nothing more. On the rest we"ll revert."

 But there was no reversion. By March 2, nothing on it. Nor from elsewhere in the UN system where it and more was sent.  So the question was asked at the March 2 UN noon briefing. We'll have more on this.

 On February 27 Inner City Press asked, video here:

Inner City Press: Press freedom question, both in Bangladesh and about Bangladesh here.  One, there was a pretty high-profile hacking to death of a blogger in Bangladesh named Avijit Roy, and I'm wondering whether the UN system, CPJ and others have denounced it for obvious reasons.  What does the UN say about that?  And also our colleague who's asked a number of questions here about Bangladesh, I tried to ask MALU yesterday whether it was true as reported in Bangladesh that the Government of Bangladesh or mission made some inquiry with the UN trying to essentially question his accreditation or make it so he couldn't ask questions here.  And I wanted to know, what's the position of the UN on such inquiries?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The UN's position is if somebody meets the accreditation criteria, they are welcome in this room and they are welcome to ask any questions.  I may cut them off if the preamble to their question is too long, but that's just my chair's prerogative.

Inner City Press:  Is it appropriate for Member States to try to essentially, like, cherry pick what journalists get to ask questions?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The point is that once they're in this room, they're allowed to ask whatever they want.  Okay?  On the attack of the blogger, we spoke to our human rights colleagues who obviously condemned the attack and expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice through the due process of law, and they've added that it's obviously very important that the space for freedom of expression in civil society be upheld in Bangladesh.

   After the briefing, Inner City Press and FUNCA were informed that the referenced journalist -- not the murdered blogger -- had his media's website blocked in Bangladesh, where there have been arrests for carrying placards, and threats against the Daily Star for publishing photographs of posters. We'll have more on this.

  On February 25, amid push-back at the questions, Inner City Press asked with even greater specificity:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask, beyond just the arrest warrant against Zia, there's a Mr. Mahmudur Manna has been arrested for trying to stir up the army and he's been arrested by something called the Rapid Action Battalion, RAB.  The reason I'm asking is research discovers that Mohammad [UN transcript claims "inaudible" but it is Muhammad Matiur Rahman] of this Rapid Action Battalion named in a filing that was directed to ICC is reportedly about to take up a position within MONUSCO.  I've been asking you this a number of times.  You'd said that the UN has all these concerns, but given that much of the violence in Bangladesh is allegedly perpetrated by the military that's contributing soldiers, I'm naming this name as a sample case.  What does DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] do to review the people coming in?  There are other conflicts…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I understand.  I've heard your question.  I tried to answer to the best of my ability yesterday when you last asked it.  You know, I have no specific information on the case that you mention or the people you mention.  There are procedures in place in order to ensure that DPKO uniformed personnel meet the requirements that we have and also in terms of human rights.  If I have any information on those specific cases, I will share them with you.

   But still, nothing, from UN Peacekeeping run by Herve Ladsous.

On February 24 Inner City Press on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the Bangladesh government's threats against the media there, specifically the Daily Star.

  Now the these strands have come together, the UN's and UN Peacekeeping's dubious commitment to human rights and a lack of press freedom in Bangladesh -- and in the UN.

  The Kaler Kantho newspaper in Bangladesh, saying that questions about human rights and Bangladesh's military should not be asked at the UN's noon briefing, has favorably cited the UN Correspondents Association in its support, reporting (as auto-translated) that ICP

"United Nations Correspondents Association iuenasie) faced investigation. He was threatened with expulsion from the iuenasie was reported that the UK's Guardian newspaper. His reputation for investigative journalism in the United Nations." Click here to view, then translate.

  Here is the Guardian article, which reported that ICP which

"has been responsible for breaking several stories about the UN, has.. also written stories accusing the UNCA president, Giampaolo Pioli, of a conflict of interest involving Sri Lanka (see here).  Lee is regarded as the UN department of public information's least-favourite journalist because he is persistent, is willing to ask uncomfortable questions, and has cultivated an impressive network of sources within the UN. UNCA is a self-governing body and membership is not a prerequisite for obtaining UN press credentials, which are granted by the UN media accreditation and liaison unit (MALU). So Lee's expulsion would not automatically deprive him of UN access. However, it is possible that it might weigh in the balance when he next applies for credentials."

   In fact, Inner City Press was never expelled by UNCA -- they didn't have the votes -- but quit the organization in disgust once its term on the board expired, and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access.

  Now, Kaler Kanthro continues after citing UNCA, the UN's Censorship Alliance,, the Bangladesh government is trying to ask the UN - and US State Department - credentials of those who ask questions about human rights abuse and censorship in the country. At the UN, they've found the UN Censorship Alliance. But this time, there's FUNCA.

  On February 24, Inner City Press on behalf of FUNCA asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: On Bangladesh, it seems like the violence is escalating but my question to you is about a statement by current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina where she says a publication, The Daily Star, legal action should be taken for publishing a photograph of a poster campaign of protesters in the street.  I’m wondering first if you have any response to that and also if you have anything new. I know there was a request to go.  Where do things stand as people seem to be getting disappeared et cetera?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don’t have an update for you on that except obviously to say that we support freedom of expression and the right for newspapers to exist, which is a big part of democracy in any country.

   But what about using "peacekeepers" who have been involved in the violence?  We noted that we'd have more on Herve Ladsous' failure to vet Bangladesh's "peacekeepers," now as his DPKO won't answer this basic question. Ladsous refuses Press questions: video here and here, Vine here. (UNCA did nothing about this, quite the contrary.)

   Inner City Press has raised these questions: is Colonel Imran Ibne A. Rouf serving UN Peacekeeping? A filing addressed to the International Criminal Court says he "abducted seven innocent civilians from a place near Dhaka Central Jail;" they were all killed.

  What about Colonel Amin, Director of National Security Intelligence, now reportedly serving in Ladsous' MINUSCA mission in the Central African Republic, along with Lt Col Mazid, who was commanding officer of Rapid Action Battalion 10?

  In Ladsous and Martin Kobler's MONUSCO mission in the DR Congo, where a Cote d'Ivoire diplomat was allowed to sell UN Police positions (clear here for that Inner City Press exclusive), please explain the presence of Lt Col Shiraj , Lt Col Mofazzal and Lt Col Khandakar Mahmud, all three of whom were in the Bangladesh Border Guards?

  In Ladsous' mission in Mali, accused like the mission in Haiti of shooting at unarmed demonstrators, please explain the presence of Lt Col Munir, Lt Col Faruq, Lt Col Shamsul Kabir and  Lt Col Mustafiz, all of whom were in the Bangladesh Border Guards, and another Maj Mustafiz, from the Directorate-General of Forces Intelligence?

   Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping uses human rights abusers, and at least in Mali and Haiti commits human rights abuses (while enabling them in the DR Congo and elsewhere). Maybe this is why Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions. Or maybe it's the still UNaddressed sale of posts scandal in his missions in Haiti and the DRC also exclusively exposed by Inner City Press. We'll have more on all of this.

 As to Bangladesh this comes after it emerged that Ban Ki-moon sent January 30 letter(s) to the country, even though the government there says they only got the letter much later. What explains the delay?

When on February 5 Inner City Press asked the UN, which uses Bangladesh soldiers as peacekeepers, this ensued: .

  So what if anything is the UN doing? Watch this site.


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