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UN & Twitter Mean Censorship, No Answer, Sandre Book Review to Come

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 21 -- Amid gushing at the United Nations about social media, there's too little said about freedom of expression, for example flogged blogged Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia and the Zone 9 Bloggers jailed in Ethiopia.

  There's also outright hypocrisy.

  As the UN promotes itself on social media, there is no policy of responding to questions raised by the press or public, even on not censoring. UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refuses to answer Inner City Press questions (video here and here, Vine); his mission in Haiti won't answer tweeted questions, or put the Press on its email list (to which it quickly and happily adds media which barely cover Haiti).

   On February 19, after getting no answer from the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric where IS the report on UN Peacekeeping shooting at unarmed demonstrators promised two months ago? Dujarric promised an answer, not yet received two days later.

   The 2013 free e-book “Twitter for Diplomats” by Italian diplomat Andreas Sandre says at page 48  “the UN social media strategy has been very successful. According to the e-diplomacy Hub by Agence France Presse the United Nations ranks 12th among the most influential countries on Twitter.”

  Of course, the UN is not a country, but who's counting?

  For a new book, Sandre interviews Dujarric among others, and one might like to hear it. But Sandre and Dujarric (who should know better), as well as another listed in Sandre's acknowledgment, instead of holding an event in the UN to which any journalist could and would go have chosen to partner with the UN's Censorship Alliance a/k/a UNCA.

  Why is it called the Censorship Alliance? Well, not only did its past and current present Giampaolo Pioli in 2012 ordered factual reporting to be removed from the Internet, or ouster from UN, see related Guardian UK coverage here -- UNCA even blocks from its Twitter feed media which the UN pretends UNCA is informing.

 Tellingly, the UN Censorship did nothing when Ladsous started saying "I do not respond;" quite the contrary. The new Free UN Coalition for Access takes a different approach, including on Twitter, here.

There are UN staff and even some officials contrary to this UNresponsive trend, for example John Ging, Leila Zerrougui and David Nabarro (there are others whom naming would help even less).

   Thankfully Sandre will be appearing flogging his book outside of the UN, across First Avenue, at an event not poisoned by Censorship, moderated by Mashable (link as full disclosure). We'll have more on this.

  By contrast - in a UN conference room journalists could and did enter and attend -- back on January30 when the UN held a “Social Media Summit, it concluded with a panel about trends, from mobile to analytics to video and Facebook's acquisition of Snapchat.

  But what about the UN defending or at least speaking up for freedom of expression on the Internet?

  Earlier on January 30, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric why Ban while in Ethiopia for the African Union summit had not raised the terrorism charges brought against the Zone 9 Bloggers. Video here.

   Dujarric said Ban has spoken elsewhere about freedom of expression in Africa, and that the (other) contents of his AU speech were interesting.

   So Inner City Press went to the #SocialUN final panel and asked, does the UN do enough to speak up for freedom in social media? One of the panelists had just finished praising high tech in Qatar. What about arrests for insulting the leader? What about Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain? Video here.

  Panelist Hayes Brown of BuzzFeed, who advised and practices Be a Person on Twitter, including baking and (good) jokes, said it is hard for the UN, since it has member states that pay its bills. He said he agreed about bloggers in Ethiopia but wasn't sure what the UN could do, beyond speaking up.

  Well, as to the Zone 9 Bloggers, the UN has yet to speak up. That would be a start.

  Panelist Liz Borod Wight, who moderator Sree Sreenivasan marveled is paid to do Instagram for the BBC, cites those who tweeted #JeSuisCharlie and said those who have freedom of expression should use it.

  Panelist Adam Glenn from CUNY Journalism School said, hoping not to offend the hosts the UN, that the UN should ensure that all of its staff have training and can tweet.

  Inner City Press and FUNCA note, for example, that a UN staffer in South Sudan abruptly stopped tweeting after she tweeted this: "#breaking Lou Nuer youth are mobilising in big numbers leaving #Akobo town empty heading towards Dengjok #Southsudan."

   As Inner City Press reported at the time, after Mathilde Kaalund-Jørgensen raised this alarm, the tweet and her Twitter account profile both disappeared. So much for Rights Up Front.

  At the end of the panel a UN staffer took the floor to acknowledge that UN staff cannot tweet what they think. But can't Ban Ki-moon say what he thinks? Or doesn't he think it? We'll have more on this.


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