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CPJ Raised Sri Lanka Case, But “Knows Little” of UN, Archaic Rules & UNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 – When the Committee to Protect Journalists came to the UN Thursday to “launch” its annual report on press freedom Inner City Press asked them, not for the first time, about the UN's own treatment of the full range of journalists, their right to access the UN and to due process if challenged. Video here, from Minute 29:12.

  As example, Inner City Press noted the UN limiting accreditation by geography and to those who abide by the “principles of the Organization,” and total lack of due process rules for journalists on complaints as those filed against Inner City Press in 2012 by Voice of America, Reuters' Louis Charbonneau and the “UN Correspondents Association” for which he spoke on Thursday. Video here, from Minute 12:04.

  Rob Mahoney of CJP, who had begun the press conference by saying “we look to the UN” on these issues, declined to comment on the "internal dynamics of the UN's accreditation process," saying he doesn't know enough about it since he focuses on "international press freedom issues." Video here, from Minute 30:40.

  But aren't unfair rules of the UN worldwide in denying access to journalists "international press freedom issues"? And how can you "look to the UN" to help if you don't first look AT the UN?

  While Charbonneau's UNCA in mid-2012 initiated a process against Inner City Press citing an article it wrote about Sri Lanka (and UNCA, see here), Inner City Press received death threats from supporters of the Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka.

  Inner City Press asked UNCA to stop or at least suspend its process; this was refused, including by Charbonneau, who told Inner City Press to “go to the NYPD.”

Remembering CPJ's Bob Dietz' focus on Sri Lanka, Inner City Press wrote to him and CPJ's Joel Simon. The response came from CPJ's Americas Research Associate Sara Rafsky:

Thank you very much for alerting us about your situation. At the moment, the Americas program is swamped with urgent cases... Thus it will most likely be some time before I can look into your case.”

  These was no follow up by CPJ. The New York Civil Liberties a month later, citing the complaint against Inner City Press, asked the UN to state its due process rules, which the UN has yet to do.

   The newly formed Free UN Coalition for Access, on behalf of which Inner City Press thanked Mahoney and his largely silent panel for coming, is pursuing changes to the UN's archaic and exclusionary accreditation rules and Media Access Guidelines.

   UNCA's, and Charbonneau's, response has been to tear down flyers on the topic.

CPJ & Reuters current and former, Feb 14, 2013 (c) MRLee

   On Thursday when Inner City Press asked about developments in Sri Lanka, including the president's brother and defense minister threatening an editor, Mahoney replied that Dietz did not come this year because he was sick, but that CPJ raises the case of cartoonist Prageeth whenever it can.

   Does CPJ think the UN under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon does enough on press freedom, particularly but not only in Sri Lanka?

   The problem here is that groups like CPJ like to use the UN to “launch” their reports. Mahoney joked with two separate Reuters reporters: click here, here and here for three (of many) documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reflecting Reuters and the UN.

Reuter's Charbonneau shakes with Ban: on what? (c) Luiz Rampelloto

  CPJ or at least Mahoney seem to assume that Big Media like Reuters (and Agence France Presse, click here) can do no wrong. But that is not the case.

Footnote: Mahoney to his credit put forth a definition of journalism far broader than the one pushed -- anonymously -- by UNCA "leaders" in a counterfeit social media account they established, which refers repeatedly to "non-media activists" as those who question UNCA's acts, including through the Free UN Coalition for Access. Most recently, they send / copy the counterfeit messages to countries' mission to the UN.

 So in terms of vetting and advocacy at and about the UN, would CPJ do better? Definitely. Will it? Watch this site.

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