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Illicit Money Is Mbeki's Topic at UN, Qs Steered to Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 6 -- Here is how the UN works, or doesn't: when former South African president Thabo Mbeki came to take questions about the High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, he said he had only 15 minutes and the first question was automatically awarded to the United Nations Correspondents Association, a group with an unreformed history of trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN.

   Not surprisingly, Mbeki was not asked what would have been obvious questions, for example concerning South African financial interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (leading, some say, to its role in the "UN" Force Intervention Brigade) and in the Central African Republic, explaining the pre-Seleka presence of South African forces there.

  How could these not be asked? The questions were primarily soft balls, other than one about the assets flows of Mubarak, Gaddafi and Ben Ali of Tunisia. In the case of Tunisia, some smell French involvement, and note France's reported laxity in fighting tax evasion. (The question of Areva in Niger, which Inner City Press tweeted, was not asked.)

  Less pointedly, Mbeki was not asked about the #OffshoreLeaks project of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a leaked database of just the type of illicit flows the press conference was ostensibly about.

From this the Free UN Coalition for Access, founded because of UNCA's attempts to get the investigative press thrown out of the UN, concludes that particularly when the time or number of questions are limited, there is no justification for automatically giving any organization the first question -- particularly not one with a history of censorship.

 One UNCA big wig's complaint to the UN has been banned from Google's Search (mis) using the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- that is, the type of non-judicial censorship now coming into force in Turkey, to block investigative journalism. We will have more on this.


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