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On Education, UNESCO Light on Net, Privileges Censors, Banning Coursera

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- Flaws and waste in education globally were the topics of a UNESCO report and press briefing on January 29. Inner City Press listened to the 20 minute opening presentation by UNESCO's Vibeke Jensen but did not hear, once, the word "Internet." This seemed strange, so Inner City Press sought to ask this and a few other questions.

  But UNESCO, despite its stated commitment to press freedom and by implication equality, pointedly awarded the first question to Pamela Falk of CBS as president of the United Nations Correspondents Association.

  There's a problem: this UNCA has degenerated into the UN's Censorship Alliance, having sought to get the investigative press thrown out of the UN, and now misusing copyright law to ban leaked documents showing this from Google's search. No reforms have been implemented or even proposed under CBS's Pam Falk.

   So what does UNESCO openly privileging this UN Censorship Alliance say about UNESCO?

   After Falk's question -- it is entirely unclear if the answer will ever get reported -- Inner City Press thanked Jensen on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access and asked about the Internet and what percentage of GDP spent on education UNESCO advises, if the six percent of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is too little?

   Jensen said UNESCO does work on the Internet -- glad to hear it -- but said in this field, mostly on teacher training. What about the Khan Academy model, for example? Nor did Jensen ever answer the percentage of GDP question. Perhaps time did not permit - in which case the automatic award of the first question to UNCA is all the more indefensible.

  So here is a question that, because of this, could not get asked on January 29: what is the UN's position on Coursera being banned in Sudan, Iran and Cuba, where Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just said he "addressed the impact of the embargo"?

UNESCO's Irina Bokova is widely reported to be campaigning to replace Ban as Secretary General. But now as Inner City Press first reported back on November 18, Helen Clark is now portrayed in the Guardian as joining the fray. Should commitment to press freedom and equality be at least one of the criteria? This is the UN. Watch this site.


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