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Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

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At UN, 7 Big Media Name Board to Investigate & Expel ICP, Conflicts Abound

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- At the request of the UN representatives of five big media corporations, a "Board of Examination" was today formed to "investigate" Inner City Press with an eye to expelling it.

   The requesters include Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse, Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia and Margaret Besheer of Voice of America, plus UN Correspondents Association president Giampaolo Pioli. They're dubbed the "P5 plus 1" at the UN.

  Pioli, who has demanded that Inner City Press remove from the Internet an article mentioning that he took rent money from Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN and then arranged to screen in the UN a Sri Lankan government film denying war crimes, refused to recuse himself from the purge.

  Instead, Pioli named to his "Board of Examination" an Italian journalist with an office right next to his on what many call "Italian row" on the UN's press floor over the library: Anna Guaita of "Il Messaggero," one of the few Italian newspapers Pioli does not list himself as working for.

  Inner City Press, shown the names only minutes before the vote, asked that Pioli's Guaita be replaced by, for example, photographer Luiz Rampelotto, who was elected to the UNCA Executive Committee with more support than an indicter.

  Rampolotto quit the Executive Committee, he says, after seeing how "corrupt" it is. He was not permitted to serve on the Board now "investigating" Inner City Press.

  Instead, Pioli named to the Board of Examination the subordinate at Xinhua of one of the voters to investigate Inner City Press. Inner City Press predicted that this process of censorship and witch hunt would further weaken UNCA.

  Inner City Press asked to respond on, but Friday was against denied access to, the same UNCA e-mail channel that Pioli used to accuse Inner City Press of unnamed violations. When Inner City Press said this was then like "State TV," Pakistani correspondent Masood Haider roared that this was an outrageous comparison. But is it?

  UNCA is supposed to have elections, in which Inner City Press has in past year run and won. Now Pioli and his gang have decided to use their "State TV" to issue propaganda and denunciations of a journalist whose critiques they do not like.

  In explanation they say, "Well you have your blog to respond" - an attitude akin in spirit some countries' in the Gulf's approach to bloggers.

  One of the Executive Committee members who voted against Inner City Press being allowed to use UNCA's "State TV" email channel to rebut the vague charge letter they sent out had not, it turned out, even read the charge letter. Pioli claimed that the use of the State TV channel was been voted on -- but it wasn't.

  Inner City Press asked to film Friday's meeting to pick the "Board of Examination" to expel it, but was denied the right. Censorship, apparently, can best be demanded off camera.

  Pioli has been managing the witch hunt with the the support and nearly under the control of Lou Charbonneau of Reuters -- who as noted stole Inner City Press' March 28 hard-won exclusive that US official Jeffrey Feltman would come work at the UN, unlike Foreign Policy's "The Cable" which gave credit. Then Charbonneau refused a request to answer why, while having filed a complaint against Inner City Press with the Media Accreditation Unit.

  Charbonneau asks that his co-stealers be named. Okay: they are Arshad Mohammed and Warren Strobel, double "editing" by Vicki Allen and Eric Beech. All for a story that small media Inner City Press had seven weeks before. Perhaps it is anger at this that drives this retaliation.

  Reuters has been asked up to the level of editor Stephen J. Adler if this, and Charbonneau personal policy of not crediting Inner City Press, are appropriate, so far without response. Bloomberg's Matthew Winkler has similarly been directly informed, without response.

  The involvement of US taxpayer funded Voice of America in this witch hunt against an independent investigative news site in the UN seems particularly outrageous, and VoA's top editors have been asked to explain it.

  VoA's Besheer signed the charge letter and left; she has been counted voting by proxy against Inner City Press and its challenges to Board members, without even hearing them, as has the representative of Al Jazeera.

  One of the few specified charged against Inner City Press is "report[ing] on confidential committee discussions about [its] behavior." These had in fact been discussions of or demand for censorship. At least four times, UNCA leadership have demanded that Inner City Press take material off the Internet: twice involving Sri Lanka and France.

  Both Missions are behind this move against Inner City Press. The French Mission used Tim Witcher of Agence France Presse to seek an UNCA denunciation of Inner City Press in September 2011 for having shown that the French Mission didn't know that Nicolas Sarkozy at the last minute switched as his person atop UN Peacekeeping from Jerome Bonnafont, whose premature bragging Inner City Press also exposed, to his second choice, Herve Ladsous.

  Witcher accused Inner City Press of using overheard information, and demanded that UNCA censure Inner City Press, which it did in an email to all members that Inner City Press was not allowed to reply to. Since then, Ladsous has on camera refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about cholera in Haiti and about Sri Lanka, saying "Well, Mister, I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and making malicious and insulting insinuations." Video here, at Minute 28:10.

 The UNCA Executive Committee did NOTHING to support the right to an answer at the UN, even omitting the entire issue from its sanitized Party-controlled minutes.

  Sri Lanka, whose Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona paid rent to Pioli, not only asked and got Pioli's permission to screen inside the UN a rebuttal to UK Channel 4's "Killing Fields" film documenting war crimes - it also wrote to Pioli and other Executive Committee members asking that they censure Inner City Press from reporting on General Shavendra Silva serving on Ban Ki-moon's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

  The UNCA Executive Committee not only did not support Inner City Press - it allowed itself to be cited in support of excluding ANY Press coverage of the SAG meetings to see if Silva attended. It was then that Pioli's prior financial relationship with Sri Lankan ambassador Kohona, when he worked in the UN Office of Legal Affairs, again became relevant. Inner City Press reported on it, and Pioli pushed the proceeding to expel Inner City Press.

  In an attempt not to stop reporting on the UN, which appears to be the goal, Inner City Press on May 31 did not write about this continuing Kafka-esque process among the four stories it published, on Sudan, the IMF, top UN jobs and the International Criminal Court.

  Nor did Inner City Press writing about this on Jun 1 before the 3:30 kangaroo court session, instead covering Syria & Somalia, noting a press conference with only two journalists, none of these UNCA big media members, busy with witch hunt.

   Rather, Inner City Press directed simple due process requests to the UNCA Executive Committee, none of which have been implemented or even responded to. Inner City Press argued to the Committee without response:

those who have used exclusives without credit cannot be viewed as sufficiently impartial.

For the record, while it was said in April that all UNCA Executive Committee members should contact each other directly when problems arise, when I wrote on May 21 to Lou Charbonneau about his and Reuters' uncredited use of Inner City Press' March 28 exclusive about Feltman coming to head DPA -- which for example Foreign Policy's "The Cable" did credit -- Lou never responded.

Finally on May 23 he said he has a policy of not crediting Inner City Press, at least for the last year. I am concerned by this, and became even more troubled when I learned that he had filed a complaint about me with MALU and Stephane Dujarric based only on my speech- that I told him he disgusted me . He also sent copies to Giampaolo, Maggie and Tim (who notably is not an officer.) I was never informed of the complaint. The complaint would in fact benefit his employer, some missions and even UN officials like Ban Ki-moon and Herve Ladsous.

If published material can be defined by the UNCA Executive Committee as "harassment," then any subject of critical press coverage could make a harassment charge.

I have never filed a complaint with MALU against any UNCA Executive Committee member, or any UNCA member or journalist at the UN at all.

While Lou Charbonneau's complaint to MALU says I am somehow making it hard for him and unnamed others to work, I view the complaint as an attempt to STOP me from working at the UN. For the record I view all of this as a violation of UNCA Constitution Article 1 (3), and where applicable the First Amendment.  I am opposing this and will oppose this 100%.

   In a last ditch attempt to avoid this time-wasting fight of big media versus small, and after getting no response from the other 14 members of the Executive Committee, Inner City Press reached out to one of the five accusers: Talal Al-Haj, pointing out they'd both asked questions at that day's stakeout on Sudan and Syria, and that even a UN Ambassador told Inner City Press that Pioli was wrong to accept rent from a person he purportedly covers, "regardless of screening the genocide denial movie in the UN."

  Al-Haj rebuffed this and has said he will denounce it, to an email list he will not share. We will have more on this.

  It seems obvious that this "Board of Examination," which Al-Haj demanded "investigate" Inner City Press' stories and so sources, must produce a written report that must be made public.

It must equally look into the underlying complaints, including the French Mission's communications with Tim Witcher about Ladsous, Pioli's Kohona and other Sri Lanka and diplomatic financial links.

  It must look into the financial and other relationships of those from whom Pioli has sought hearsay testimony and support for this retaliatory purge. This is a sad swansong of a career that may or may not have been distinguished but is now conflicted. That's why Inner City Press was vague in its June 1 UN question:

Inner City Press: many media organizations have rules that their journalists shouldn’t have a financial relationship even as a landlord with the people that they cover. Some missions here actually have that same understanding that their people in their missions wouldn’t enter into such engagements with ostensibly independent journalists. So I wanted to know, whether within the UN system has any principles or ideas or thoughts on the idea of UN officials entering into a financial relationship with the journalists who are ostensibly covering them independently. Any thoughts?

Deputy Spokesperson: I would have to check on that, I have got no information. We’ll have to check with the ethics people on that.

Inner City Press: Can you get back to me?

Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, we’ll try and get back to you on that.

]Inner City Press: Okay. As quickly as possible, if you could?

   Still nothing. UNCA's Board must collect evidence on Reuters' awareness of but refusal to credit Inner City Press' March 28 exclusive in its pick-ups of May 21 and afterward and other media organizations' theft of such Inner City Press exclusives as the 14 kilos of cocaine found in the UN mail room earlier this year.

  Those involved in uncredited use of exclusives should not serve on the Board of Examination or vote on its findings.

  Beyond indictors Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, which beyond Reuters on Feltman all stole Inner City Press' cocaine in the UN mail room exclusive story, we can now name Talal Al-Haq of Al-Arabiya, who without credit said June 1 his sources told him Darfur envoy Ibrahim Gambari is leaving.

  Inner City Press reported that a full ten days ago on May 21 and has fielded questions since. Maybe Al-Haj's sources read it in Inner City Press.

  And one of the Board of Examination members chosen by Pioli further passed on, then tried to erase having passed on, Al-Haj's uncredited use of the week-old Gambari exclusive. And so it goes for now at the UN. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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