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In UN Presser on Syria, To Restrict Other Views, UNCA Asks to Oust FUNCA Member

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- The UN announced that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would have an important announcement Sunday at 5:30 pm, and turned on its worldwide webcast at that time.

  While it seemed clear it would be about the upcoming "Geneva Two" Syria talks, and probably involve a belated invitation to Iran to participate, people tuned in and watched. Click here for Inner City Press story on the presser, here for Geneva Two.

  In the half-hour delay before Ban actually appeared, they saw a spectacle that says much about the UN and how it is covered. A representative of Ban's chosen United Nations Correspondents Association, which for example hosted the Syria Opposition Coalition's Ahmad al Jarba for a faux "UN briefing" in July, tried to get another correspondent thrown out of the front row of the briefing room.

  Sitting in what the UN has designated as the "UNCA seat," compete with name tag on it, the day's UNCA representative told two correspondents, one of them a member of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, that they had to move.

  Why? The representative said that there was an "UNCA rule" that that effect, and went and asked the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit to enforce it. The FUNCA member said unless the rule could be shown in writing, he would not leave.

  Why would one group of journalists try to limit the access of others? Well, UNCA executive committee members have tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, in emails to UN Media Accreditation that one of them, the Reuters bureau chief, has subsequently (mis) used the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to block from Google's search. UNCA has became the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  The question is, why does Ban Ki-moon's UN grant special favors to one group of correspondents whose leadership is dominated by Gulf and Western media? They are given a large UN room -- to host Jarba, for example -- and the automatic right to hold "UN screenings," for example of a Sri Lanka government film denying war crimes.

  They are given the first question, automatically, even if a member of their Executive Committee is not present. This increasingly indefensible -- and disruptive -- practice must stop. Sunday, UN president Pamela Falk of CBS was not there. But what was said from the "UNCA seat," trying to limit the access of other correspondents, is attributable to her and UNCA. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.


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