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March 1, 2011 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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At UN, As Herve Ladsous Serves France, AFP Seeks Deletion of French Mission from Coverage

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- When the UN on September 2 named French ministry of foreign affairs chief of staff Herve Ladsous as the fourth successive Frenchman to sit atop its Department of Peacekeeping Operations, it was rushed and no one would say when Ladsous would start.

  As complained about by the French Mission to the UN, Inner City Press reported that the Mission had not known that the UN would name Ladsous and not French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont, who had bragged to diplomats in India that he had the job sewn up. Now Bonnafont will be replacing Ladsous as chief of staff to French minister Alain Juppe.

  On September 12, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky when Ladsous would come and give a briefing.

 Nesirky said that while Ladsous was finally in New York preparing, he wouldn't begin until late September or early October -- by which time the top DPKO post will have been vacant for two months, during scandals of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in Haiti, and inaction in Sudan.

  On September 16, Inner City Press heard from the new acting chief of public affairs for DPKO:

"I wanted to just update you on the situation of Mr Herve Lasdous, the Under-Secretary-Designate for Peacekeeping. Mr Lasdous arrived at headquarters on Monday for the week, following the recent announcement of his appointment, for a series of introductory briefings prior to commencing his duties upon being sworn in in early October. As you will understand, Mr Lasdous is not undertaking any media activities until he has been sworn in and commenced duties as Under-Secretary-General."

  Inner City Press responded thanks, "can you say the last day of Mr. Ladsous working for the French government?"

  The response was "I do not know the details of Mr Ladsous's last working day with the French Government. I do know that he is not being sworn in, and is therefore not starting in his position with the UN, until early October (precise date tbc). I really can't add to that."

  On September 19, Inner City Press again tried to get an answer from UN spokesman Nesirky:

Inner City Press: I have tried this through DPKO... he will be sworn in in early October. So I asked them, is he still working for the French department of Foreign Affairs? As you know, he was the Chief of Staff to Alain Juppé. When did his employment with Foreign Ministry of France -- has it ended, or when did it end?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, that’s not even a question for DPKO any more than it is a question for me. Why don’t you ask the French Foreign Ministry?

Question: You’ve named him, I would assume that if the Secretary-General named him, he would know that, right?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, we have said, I have said, I think even sitting here, if I am not mistaken, that the new head of DPKO, the new Under-Secretary-General, is designate until sworn in, and that that swearing in is anticipated to take place in early October. That’s correct. As for any further details on what the position is right now, I am sure you could check with the French Foreign Ministry.

That day, Inner City Press went to a press availability with Alain Juppe, to ask these questions:

"Since September 2, questions have since arisen about Ladsous, including... his statements in 2004 favoring the ouster of Aristides from Haiti and his role as chief of staff of your immediately predecessor Michel Aliot-Marie as she flew around on the airplane of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. Why choose a person not ready to begin work, given the current UN peacekeeping scandal in Haiti and crisis in Sudan? Factually, when did or will Ladsous stop working for the French dep't of foreign affairs?"

  But these questions were not permitted (the first question went to, what else, French state media). Inner City Press was not invited to another September 20 Juppe press availability on Libya, even though Inner City Press exclusively obtained and published, for example, the UN's Ian Martin report on Libya.

Nicolas Sarkozy at UN Sept 21, Ladsous (and use of AFP) not shown

  Since September 2 Inner City Press has questioned and reported about Ladsous and among other things his previous positions on Haiti including calling for the ouster in 2004 of elected president Aristide. This reporting has been and will be despite attempts to make it more difficult raised by the French Mission and Agence France Presse, an agency which receives over 40% of its funding from "subscriptions" by the French government, a subsidy now under fire in the EU.

  When on September 2 Inner City Press reported on what the French Mission had told French media, with the Mission not having known that the UN would name Ladsous, an AFP correspondent Pierre Antoine Donnet quickly contacted Inner City Press asking in writing and with no request for confidentiality that

"all reference to the French mission should be deleted... Please do that. It is causing me big trouble."

  As an accommodation, Inner City Press modified the story, while telling the AFP correspondent that neither he nor AFP were the source. Donnet replied "Ok thanks, bon week-end."

But when the UN re-opened on September 6, the other AFP correspondent at the UN Timothy Witcher without once approaching Inner City Press went straight to the UN Correspondents' Association executive committee, on which both he and this reporter serve, and made a complaint, asking for unspecified "action."

 UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli scheduled a meeting at a time Inner City Press could not attend, and allow Witcher to present his complaint without rebuttal.

Two days later, after a meeting in which the issue of Pioli receiving money from the Ambassador of Sri Lanka whose request to screen a government film denying war crimes Pioli granted without consulting other members of the UNCA committee came up, a draft UNCA executive committee statement was circulated.

  When Inner City Press opposed the statement as contrary to freedom of the press, AFP's Witcher threatened to file a complaint with the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit "or some other outside body."

  Inner City Press said, and says, that AFP in this case is doing the business of the French Mission, whose spokesman after Inner City Press published leaked documents from the Mission about Cote d'Ivoire and other topics said, "This is a hostile act."

  Over 40% of AFP's funding come from "subscriptions" from the French government, a subsidy being investigated by the EU. AFP is state-funded media, and seeks to use the UN Correspondents' Association against a smaller media which the French Mission declared guilty of a "hostile act" of journalism.

  Ultimately on the first day of the UN General Debate September 21, without allowing Inner City Press to attach a simple dissent, UNCA issued a statement as Tim Witcher of AFP had proposed, tell journalists "not to use private conversations between members of the UN press corps as the basis of news reports, or to confirm them, without direct consent."

  Inner City Press has counter proposed a number of other ethical reminders, including:

UNCA reminds UN correspondents that disclosure of possible conflicts of interest, particularly the receipt of money whether present or past, is proper when making decisions that impact UNCA and its credibility.

UNCA reminds media organizations accredited at the UN that generally one must be either a journalist covering the UN, or a paid employee of the UN, but not both.

This last is a reference to AFP having sent to cover the Security Council an individual who also works for the UN covering meetings. Ethics?

Meanwhile, with Ladsous for some reason -- finishing French business, at least explicit French business -- not beginning until early October, there will be time for the review of his record that it appears the Ban Ki-moon administration did not do.

 This includes Ladsous' role as chief of staff to Michele Aliot-Marie, who took gifts from Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, as well as various of Ladsous' speeches and positions. Will the French Mission or AFP, though UNCA or some other way, be able to stop this review? We'll see. And so it goes at the UN.

March 1, 2011 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

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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

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