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Amid UN Censorship Alliance Ball, UNanswered Qs on Haiti Cholera, Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- One might think that the work of a journalists' group would be to push for broader access, more answers, and against censorship. In the case of the United Nations Correspondents Association, holding a $250 a plate dinner tonight with the very people they purport to cover, this would be incorrect.

  UNCA is so close to the UN Secretariat that its leaders have tried to get media which ask hard questions thrown out of the UN. (Click here for how UNCA tried to expel Inner City Press for reporting on the past financial relationship between UNCA's president and the Sri Lanka ambassador whose war crimes denial film UNCA screened in the UN.)

  These questions include the UN dodging legal accountability for bringing cholera to Haiti, on which Inner City Press again put three questions  to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky at Wednesday's noon briefing, getting a response to only one, here.

  When throwing Inner City Press out of the UN failed, and was exposed by documents obtained from Voice of America under the Freedom of Information Act, the UNCA leaders in 2013 under Pamela Falk engaged in anonymous social media trolling, setting out counterfeit Twitter accounts impersonating not only Inner City Press but also the new Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info.

  Now even the dinner is in decline. In the past the master of ceremonies has been Richard Roth of CNN, quite the prankster. This year it is Laura Trevelyan of the BBC, who during a 2009 trip to Sri Lanka with Ban Ki-moon and UK humanitarian chief Sir John Holmes not only didn't report Holmes on the record comment that he deleted all complaining emails from Tamils -- she said the Press reporting this "ruined" relations with Holmes for her and, for example, Reuters.

  The Reuters bureau chief, UNCA's first vice president and shamelessly UNCA prize awardee tonight, went on to spy for the UN, in essence, turning over anti-Press internal UNCA documents to the UN three minutes after promising not to do so. Story here, document here, audio here.

  But UNCA must have done some good in 2013, right? Well, not really. Its belated 2013-14 book's UNCA's "Message from the President" says that in 2013 "we held dozens of press briefings by diplomats and policymakers in our new meeting room."

  This is patently false. Dozens means at least 24. There was Saudi sponsored Syria rebel Jarba, and some chefs; an ironic "Transparency" briefing and a JFK book (by neither a diplomat nor policy maker). There is no way that 24 briefings were held in the room the UN gives to its Censorship Alliance. So why say "dozens of press briefings"? Well, it's UNCA - the UN's Censorship Alliance. Watch this site.


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