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On Press Due Process Rights, UN Won't Answer, Reuters' Stealth Complaint, UNCA on Hair

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- While the UN preaches the rule of law all over the world, in its headquarters it does not have even the most basic forms of due process.

  On January 17, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked three officials of the UN Department of Public Information, not for the first time, what journalists' rights are to be informed of complaints filed against them.

   The question first arose when Inner City Press became belated aware that Reuters' bureau chief at the UN, Louis Charbonneau, filed a stealth complaint with the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit about a mere verbal exchange. Charbonneau was called "disgusting;" his complaint is online here.

   While Charbonneau sent a copy of his complaint to, among others, Tim Witcher of Agence France Presse who had in September 2011 asked the UN Correspondents Association to take action against Inner City Press for an article it published about the French Mission to the UN and Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping, Charbonneau never informed Inner City Press.

   The UN's MALU never informed Inner City Press of the complaint, nor when Voice of America, saying it had the support of Reuters' Charbonneau and AFP's Witcher, filed a June 20, 2012 demand to get Inner City Press' accreditation "reviewed" by the UN.

   The UN official to whom this stealth dis-accreditation request was directed wrote back "thank you" to VOA, saying he would call them to pursue the complaint. Click here for that document, obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act.

  When would he and the UN have informed Inner City Press of the complaint? The question was asked on January 17, and a written on the record answer was promised. But more than 24 hours later, no written answer has been provided.

   In fact, this UN official himself complained -- not to Inner City Press -- about any reporting about the meeting of FUNCA and DPI. Does that stand for the UN Department of PRIVATE Information, then?

   The UN official said he provided a response to the New York Civil Liberties Union's public demand to know the UN's rules for accreditation, made explicitly in light of VOA's stealth dis-accreditation request.

   He claimed the response was made on June 29 -- but the NYCLU's letter wasn't sent and put online until July 5. Something is wrong here.

   Meanwhile UNCA's response to the posting of a necessarily vague summary of FUNCA's January 17 meeting with DPI has been another counterfeit FUNCA flier, and another attempting humor about hair styles.

  To this has UNCA descended. Its Executive Committee, still including Witcher and Charbonneau as First Vice President, have turned it into a pathetic and even corrupt organization.

   That the UN official described above tried to tell FUNCA it should work with, or even merge back into, this debased organization is telling. Emphasis was made that UNCA's old four-year president is out, and another has been "elected" (without any competition).

    But this new president, endorsed by the old, has had the counterfeit fliers and the hair critique posted right next to her (private) office, and has said nothing. What was said, to a newsy Permanent Representative this week, was "I am the president of UNCA, not FUNCA." That's right.

   The train has left the station, and more will have to be told: we continue to await the promised written response to the issues FUNCA has raised. Watch this site.

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