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UNCA Insiders Tried to Expel Press, Now Meet UN on Space, Illegitimate, Need for FUNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 8 -- Amid the many moves back into the UN's 38 story tower, the move of the press corps will come nearly last.

  The issue of media space and services is set to be the subject of a December 10 meeting between the UN and some members of the discredited UN Correspondents Association executive committee.

   But other UNCA members, much less UN resident correspondents who are not members of UNCA, have not been told about it. Some wonder if their rights can be defended by this selective and secretive process -- and so an inquiry by the new FUNCA, the Free UN Coalition on Access.

   Having been launched only on December 7, after the receipt of documents under the Freedom of Information Act which show that UNCA bigwigs from Reuters, Agence France Presse and Voice of America tried to get investigative press thrown out of the UN, FUNCA is not yet at the strength it aims to gain.

  But its questions include the following: by what right does a small group of correspondents purport to negotiate for others they do not keep informed?

  Who can guarantee that these insiders don't simply feather their nests and receive closed door offices, one for each media, while others work in a bullpen?

   Even some elected members of the UNCA Executive Committee were not informed of the meeting set for Monday, nor of other plans.

  And, FUNCA has learned from mission sources, despite formal objection within the UNCA Executive Committee in late October, a letter was sent out on November 8 purporting to be for the whole UNCA Executive Committee. This organization has become a sham. In the future, their letters cannot be taken at face value: they simple exclude even elected members who disagree with them.

   These are the type of conditions that lead to the formation of new or split off parties, as in a bigger picture in the Arab Spring. The UN and even some of these correspondents pay lip service to such principles but do not live them.

   The UN Correspondents Association's executive committee including Reuters and Agence France Presse helped Voice of America to file a June 20, 2012 request with the UN to "review" the accreditation status of Inner City Press -- and then never deigned to explain themselves.

  But documents now obtained obtained from Voice of America's Broadcast Board of Governors under Freedom of Information Act requests and appeals show that even VOA's overseer Richard Lobo, as well as review requester Steve Redisch, had to admit in writing their anti-Press moves were "not appropriate."

   Still the UNCA executive committee persisted, leaving posted on its glassed in bulletin board its initial letter of denunciation, going secret with their meetings with the UN, and setting up scam elections. As reported yesterday, this illegitimacy must end, and the new beta FUNCA -- the Free UN Coalition for Access -- aims to do so.

    On August 8 and earlier on December 6, we reported on some of the documents obtained from BBG via FOIA requests and appeals; now we report more.

  Once BBG was asked by Congress to explain its request to disaccredit an investigative journalist, Steve Redisch and David Ensor scoured their files for support.

  On July 29, VOA's David Ensor wrote to Steve Redisch, "The quote from Reuters will definitely help!"

  The reference was to the stealth complaint filed by Reuters bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, based on Inner City Press telling him, "you disgust me."

  Later, Charbonneau on behalf of Reuters said he was willing to have submitted a letter to get Inner City Press disaccredited. Once VOA's letter was leaked, Charbonneau and outgoing UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli came to ask Inner City Press to withdraw its FOIA request.

   Moments later, the UN official to whom Redish's request was directed met Inner City Press and gave a six month extension of accreditation, along with a written (and separate and different oral) warning.

  The written warning was about Inner City Press signing in as a guest the Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman, who then spoke on UN TV at the stakeout.

   But later, to justify themselves, Ensor and Redisch crowed within BBG that Inner City Press was given a warning - as if it had anything to do with the issues they based their anti-Press filing on.

   Richard Lobo, the head of BBG, ended up having to call the request by Redisch "not appropriate" in an email to the BBG board, one of whose members Dana Perino wrote, "folks - I believe this issue needs addressed in a more robust way."

   BBG and VOA never issued any apology to Inner City Press, or moved to withdraw their "inappropriate" request. Nor did the UNCA executive committee say anything, or explain the documents when Inner City Press sent them three in October.

   Now, again, we have learned, some on this UNCA Executive Committee seek to have another closed door, otherwise secret meeting with UN officials on December 10. Watch this site.

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