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UN Spox Reply Stonewalls on Haiti, Ignores Roed-Larsen, Vogt & Reed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 12 -- New / old UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric refused to answer before noon any single one of a set of simple questions e-mailed to him on the morning of March 12, saying "we are working on the briefing and will not be in a position to answer before noon."

  These were the questions asked by Inner City Press, followed by the 3:42 pm responses:

-On South Sudan, what is the UN's response to NGO Rally for Peace and Democracy critique of worsening conditions in UNMISS camps, specifically that "most of IDPs reported that their food security situation in the camps is deteriorating further and that their repeated complaints are falling on deaf ears... Domestic flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches infest the camp dwellings as the rainy season almost approaching. This has driven fear for reason of high morbidity and fatality caseloads of bacterial diseases bloody and watery diarrhea (dysentery), malaria, typhoid, pneumonia and warm infestations."

-As requested in person at the March 10 noon briefing, please confirm or deny that Haiti cholera court papers were taped to the door of the Secretary General's residence on or around January 20; please state not only the title (inserted into the transcript) but the current terms of reference, mandate and pay scale of Mr. Iqbal Riza, and confirm that Augustine Mahiga has been paid as a USG since June 2013. What lessons has he conveyed to Nicholas Kay? Has Margaret Vogt conveyed lessons to Babacar Gaye?

Relatedly, please state the current terms of reference, mandate and pay scale of Mr. Joseph V. Reed, and state how many days Terje Roed Larsen has worked on his mandate, where (Bahrain?) and at what level of compensation.

- on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, asking why the Secretary General's photo op with NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, in his daily scheduled, has not been listed in the UN Media Alert.

-Please state why the Secretariat has declined to recognize (or give work-release to) those who garnered the most votes in the December election, and state who the Secretariat recognizes as the Staff Union at this time.

Please email answers as soon as they become available, as requested, before noon (several of these questions were asked on March 10). Thank you.

 Tellingly, even when responses came, they did not MENTION Mahiga or Margaret Vogt, much less Joseph V. Reed or Terje Roed Larsen; because Ban's meeting was canceled, why it was not listed in the day's UN Media Alert, a longstanding request to Dujarric by the Free UN Coalition for Access, was not answered. Here's what Dujarric's office sent:

Subject: Your emailed questions

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply un.org
Date: Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 3:42 PM

To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

Cc: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org

Regarding your emailed questions, the Spokesperson read the following on the conditions at an UNMISS camp at today's noon briefing:

"Moving on South to South Sudan, as we told you on Monday, heavy rains in Juba have damaged tents at the Tomping compound.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that it has exacerbated already difficult living conditions. Aid agencies responded with measures to improve drainage and shelters in the site, and will assist people to move to plots in the UN House base later this week.

The UN Mission also says that it is finding ways to improve conditions by trying to extend current sites and is building new ones. Our humanitarian colleagues further says that displaced communities and the aid agencies supporting them expect to face similar challenges in several sites once the rainy season starts in earnest in April."

On your question on Haiti, the Spokesperson has repeatedly said that we would not be able to comment on claims against the Organisation, as per standard legal practice.

On your question on different special advisers, the Spokesperson provided an answer at the noon briefing two days ago. In addition to what was said then, we can add that Iqbal Riza is a Special Adviser, who has advised the Secretary-General on the Alliance of Civilizations, among other topics.

The meeting with Mayor di Blasio was postponed, following the building collapse in Manhattan today.

We have no comment on the question on staff representation in New York.

  Confirming that legal papers were taped to the door of Ban Ki-moon's residence is not commenting on a legal case. In fact, refusing to discuss the service of papers is another way for Ban's UN to try to dodge the cases, and its responsibility.

  The answer on March 10 on Mahiga called nine months of pay a short time; of the written questions, Vogt, Reed and Roed Larsen are not mentioned. This is a complete lack of transparency about high UN officials - and about money. This is the UN.
 
   Dujarric began on March 10 with questions raised two weeks ago (and before) about censorship and his replacement atop the News & Media Division and UN Accreditation UNanswered.

  Tellingly, some in the press briefing room applauded before Dujarric even said a word. He read a statement for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about "The Ukraine."

  In the question and answer session, four of the first five questioners Dujarric called on were among the 15 executive committee members of the United Nations Correspondents Association, with which Dujarric has some history.

  Inner City Press asked if Ban Ki-moon had the Haiti cholera court papers taped to his residence door on January 20 -- no answer -- and for UN response to Channel 4's new video showing abuse by the military of Sri Lanka, from which the UN accepts peacekeepers and even Shavendra Silva as an adviser. (Dujarric said he hasn't seen the video; it is online here: warning, graphic).

  On the case against the UN for bringing cholera to Haiti, Inner City Press asked Dujarric to confirm that the court papers were taped to the door of Ban's residence on January. Dujarric declined to confirm - or deny - this. Video on Haiti (and Sri Lanka) here.

  As it did days ago, Inner City Press asked for the status of selecting Dujarric's replacement as head of the News and Media Division, in charge of UN media accreditation. No answer has been given about this status. This is of concern.

 A flier the Free UN Coalition for Access posted on this topic, on the "non-UNCA" bulletin board it advocated for, was torn down on March 7. At a second briefing, by the CTBTO, on March 10 Dujarric called first on UNCA, then on others.

  When Inner City Press thanked CTBTO's Zerbo on behalf of FUNCA - the point is, there cannot be only one organization given UNCA's track record of attempted censorship and even more now with Dujarric's history with them -- Dujarric tried to move on (back to UNCA) before the related question on France's nuclear tests in the Pacific was answered.

  It is a new era, requiring a new approach.

  Two years ago Dujarric was re-introduced to UN journalist as the chief of the News & Media Division, in a reception in what the UN called "UNCA Square." And then the censorship attempts began.

  A journalist for Iranian TV, found to have a rubber gun which was a prop in an independent film he was working on, had his UN accreditation revoked, permanently. Dujarric was in charge of Media Accreditation, and Inner City Press asked him for a justification of this "one strike and you're out policy." No answer was ever provided by Dujarric.

  Also in his Media Accreditation role, Dujarric chastised Inner City Press for daring to go stand outside and try to cover a meeting of Ban's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations, which included controversial Sri Lankan military figure Shavendra Silva. After the Sri Lankan government directed a complaint letter to the aforementioned UNCA, Inner City Press was told it could not cover the meetings.

Inner City Press, then on the board of UNCA, was not notified when the organization's then president agreed to screen a Sri Lankan government film denying war crimes. After it published an article noting that the UNCA president had in the past rented one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, demands were made that Inner City Press remove the article from the Internet.

UNCA took to sending copies of correspondence to Dujarric, about articles Inner City Press had written about officials and diplomats of Dujarric's native France. Finally, UNCA first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters sent a complaint against Inner City Press to Dujarric, calling it "for the record."

More recently, Charbonneau has gotten one of his complaints to Dujarric banned from Google's Search, using a filing under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- straight up censorship. What does Dujarric say?

In fact, Dujarric solicited complaints against Inner City Press from other big-media UNCA board members, through a private, including through non-UN email address. Freedom of Information Act responses show that UNCA board members met with "the UN" to request that Inner City Press be thrown out. Once Inner City Press published some of these, Dujarric on June 29, 2012 asked to meet Inner City Press.

  Dujarric told Inner City Press not to refer to Ban Ki-moon as "Wan Ki-moon" and not to refer to Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping, as The Drone despite Ladsous proposing the UN's first use of drones and refusing to answer Press questions about it.

  This and a specious criticism for having signed Nobel Peace Prize Winner Tawakul Karman of Yemen into the UN, where she dared speak on the UN microphone after a Security Council meeting on Yemen, were linked by Dujarric to re-accreditation he controlled.

  Criticism of stories, coverage and even tweets is fine -- but when done by an official in charge of accreditation, and even tied to accreditation, we call it what it is: censorship.

Disgusted, Inner City Press and another long time correspondent from Brazil founded the Free UN Coalition for Access as an alternative to the insider UNCA, which did not for example offer any defense to the cameraman thrown out for the rubber gun. (Reuters' Charbonneau, in fact, wrote a story playing up the Iranian angle.)

  But Dujarric became the interlocutor for FUNCA. He said only UNCA was needed. After convening a meeting between FUNCA and UNCA, at which Inner City Press openly said "this is on the record" and UNCA president Pamela Falk of CBS said, "He's going to write about this," Dujarric sent Inner City Press a letter which claimed the meeting was off the record and said FUNCA was not a DPI interlocutor for reform.

  There have been no reforms since, quite the opposite. Dujarric, who earlier refused a New York Civil Liberties Union request that the UN provide due process to journalists, continued the Kafka-esque atmosphere in March 2013 when Reuters and Agence France-Presse filed stealth complaints leading with how Inner City Press asked a question to Herve Ladsous.

  When Dujarric's Accreditation Unit led a raid on Inner City Press' office, photos from which quickly appeared on BuzzFeed, Dujarric denied any role in giving out the photos. But the published photos are identical to the ones his unit took that day.

  Since the letter with the false "off the record" claim, the raid and photos and attempt to censor tweets, there has been very little contact (though there was an attempt to essentially ban FUNCA, another limitation on freedom of association, speech and press). FUNCA has continued, working with UN-focused journalists not only in New York but as far afield as Somaliland and Colombia.

  Now Stephane "The Censor" Dujarric is the spokesperson. Can he use this position to pursue the censorship he's sought for the past two years? FUNCA opposes it, and says these questions must be answered. Watch this site.


 

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