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As UN Cites Sandy & To Delay Media Move-Back, UNCA's Counterfeit Rejected

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- One impact of Hurricane Sandy on the UN was disclosed to Inner City Press on Friday: the high pay for construction workers for post-storm repairs is the UN's excuse for delaying the press corps' move-back into the UN's 38 story tower from February until April.

  The delay was announced Friday afternoon, without any explanation, that "the press will now move in April" and "UN phone, we will no longer be able to provide such lines."

  Inner City Press, also on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, immediately protested to the UN's Department of Public Information, "please provide an explanation of the further delay to April of the move back to the renovated building" and "FUNCA objects to the elimination of the UN phone lines."

   On the delay of the move back, Inner City Press was told to ask the UN Capital Master Plan and did, again on behalf of FUNCA. This answer came back from the Public Information Officer of the CMP, Werner Schmidt:

"Hi Matthew, The decision to change the move-back date to April was caused by collateral impacts of Hurricane Sandy, especially by a lack of adequate labor due to increased demand for overtime-paying construction repair jobs. This affects the new Permanent Broadcast Facility in the Conference Building, whose completion is necessary for the new press offices to function."

   The UN now cites Hurricane Sandy's impact on construction worker pay to explain delay; the UN has been much less forthcoming about Sandy's direct impact on the building, especially its still damaged (and some say moldy) third sub basement.

   Speaking of moldy, the decaying UN Correspondents Association which in 2012 allowed the UN to reduce media space by 40% in the move-back has done nothing to oppose or even explain this new delay, and the elimination of UN phones and phone numbers for the media.

   Rather, responding to FUNCA's critique of its overdue elections with no competition for the top six spots, which saw a 14% decline in turn-out after a year of attempted censorship and dis-accreditation, an UNCA official on January 11 posted a counterfeit flier pretending that FUNCA "congratulates" UNCA.

   Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only did the 2012 UNCA Executive Committee try to expel Inner City Press and get it thrown out of the UN for its investigative coverage, including of UNCA conflicts of interest -- they also encouraged the involuntary reduction of other correspondents to "emeritus" status with reduced rights.

   This followed them allowing a cameraman to be thrown out of the UN for a single mistake, and an UNCA official piling one with an inaccurate wire story written without even trying to speak to the expelled journalist.

Despite this, UNCA's counterfeit flier purports to have FUNCA members saying they "will no longer attack UNCA members on our websites and in our Tweets."

   Is it "attacking" to publish US government records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that show that Lou Charbonneau of Reuters, re "elected" as UNCA First Vice President with no competition but with 30% fewer votes that the previous year, along with Tim Witcher of Agence France-Presse told Voice of America that Reuters and AFP would support throwing Inner City Press out of the UN?

   Or is the counterfeit flier an attempt, as before, to stop truthful coverage which calls into question the free press credibility of these two and any organization they "lead" or control?

   There has been no coverage much less attack on the majority of UNCA members. But these two, and other involved in the attempted censorship and dis-accreditation, try to use the others figuratively as human shields.

   Will they succeed in this with the new president, who has said nothing about the 2012 censorship and dis-accreditation bids? It is not yet known.

   It was these restriction on coverage and media critique that Inner City Press rejected when demanded by the UNCA Executive Committee in 2012, and it rejects it still. It is pathetic that a supposed media freedom organization would think it appropriate to tell journalists what they can and cannot cover. Watch this site.

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