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UN Moscow Call Limits Questions All 1-Way, No Sanctions, Just Scribes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 -- When new / old UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric phoned in a briefing from Moscow on his eleventh day on the job, the questions he took all pointed in one direction, the type of favoritism growing ever worse at the UN.

   Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, who ended his truncated eight minutes of Q&A on the "rest of the world" by chiding Inner City Press for asking too many questions -- actually, only South Sudan and a UN Staff Union protest against Ban Ki-moon's mobility plan -- selected for Dujarric only one type of question.

  In fact, the questions were repetitive, trying to get a statement from Ban even if only spokesperson-mediated that the Crimea referendum was illegal. Haq called on a series of executive committee members of the old UN Correspondents Association, which previously lobbied Dujarric to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. Several of these, it has been noted there is no record of them writing or reporting about Ukraine. But this is how the UN works, or doesn't work, now.

   Earlier on March 20, the US announced a series of new sanctions including against Bank Rossiya. Inner City Press thought this should be asked to Dujarric in Moscow, if Ban or Putin or Lavrov had raised it. But none of those called on by Haq even asked the question.  We'll have more on this.

  Last week, Dujarric did not provide a Press requested read-out of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's meeting earlier in the week with Estonia's foreign minister, who was captured on leaked audio recounting that the same snipers may well have shot both police and protesters in Ukraine. No read-out?

  Adding to unanswered questions still not answered on March 20 ranging from Nigeria to Terje Roed-Larsen, before 8 am on March 14 Inner City Press asked Dujarric:

These are Inner City Press questions to which responses are requested before noon today (they are being sent before 8 am, and there are only four of them)

1) Please provide a read-out of the Secretary General's meeting with the foreign minister of Estonia this week, including whether the issue of who called the snipers' shots in Kyiv was discussed, particularly since a read out of the SG's meeting with the foreign minister of Turkey was given -- or explain why no Estonia FM read out is being given.

2) What is the UN's / UN Peacekeeping's response to an Indian police officer now facing punishment for having served in the UNAMID mission in Darfur? See,

3) Please state if the Secretary General / Secretariat views the "invitation" from Thailand for the SG to become involved as valid, given questions raised about it in Thailand, see,

4) In the most recent Situation Report on CAR (as of March 12) it is said

"Targeted violence against minority groups continues countrywide, including in Bangui. Over 20,000 people are besieged and threatened by armed militias in 18 different locations. The majority of them are calling for humanitarian assistance leaving these enclaves for safer areas in or outside the country."

Please confirm that the referred-to "minority groups" are Muslims, and if so please explain why the UN would not identify them as such.

Please state what if anything the UN system has done on Navi Pillay's January 20 statement that France's actions in CAR left Muslim communities vulnerable to attack.

The questions about dollar a year envoys, Nigeria, UN Global Compact member and money laundering / corruption probe, service of Haiti cholera case papers and UN Media Alert and others have not been responded to in any way - please explain.

  Here is the totality of Dujarric's office answers to the four questions above, provided after the noon briefing that never happened:

we have been informed that there will be no readout of the meeting with the Estonian foreign minister. We have no comment concerning Thailand for today.

On the Central African Republic, officials throughout the UN system have identified specific minorities who have been targeted in specific incidents, and you will have seen the many statements and press releases concerning violence against Muslims.

  Tellingly, the question about UN Peacekeeping run by Herve Ladsous was not even mentioned in this cursory response, nor does the paragraph on CAR show any actual follow up to Navi Pillay's statement about France putting Muslims at risk. (An answer to the previously day's question about the Global Compact as provided and will be separately reported.)

  These were the other questions asked by Inner City Press at 8 am on March 13:

-On Nigeria, what is the UN Secretary General's or Secretariat's response to the the Nigerian group WON saying the UN should refund the $30 million given it by the Nigerian government for reconstruction of its building that was bombed by Boko Haram? To help you answer:

Emmanuel Ogebe of WON said: “We are asking that the UN should refund the N 4billion because we believe that an international organization of that class should have the resources to fix the building. The fact of the matter is that Nigeria should not foot the bill of an international organization funded by all countries of the world and then, poor people who have nothing will loose their houses, churches and the Nigerian government will not provide for them. It is only obligatory that Nigeria pays its dues, and we have even gone far to provide peace keeping troops. We have paid our dues even with the lives of some officers, and now we have an atrocity like this, instead of the UN to take care of the building and allow us have resources to take care of ourselves... We ask the UN Secretary General to refund the $30 million into a Victim Compensation Fund that would assist victims of the insurgent.”

This is not (yet?) litigation: what is the UN Secretariat's response?


-While still requesting response with regard to Mr. Roed-Larsen, Mr. Joseph V. Reed et al, here is a more systematic question:

Has the SG yet prepared the guidelines required by Resolution 67/255? Following the GA's decision on $1/year contracts in April 2013, how many individuals currently have $1/year contracts, and who are they?

To assist your answer:

A/RES/67/255, 73rd plenary meeting 12 April 2013 e, excerpt

...63. Stresses that one-dollar-a-year contracts should be granted only under exceptional circumstances and be limited to high-level appointments, and requests the Secretary-General to prepare guidelines regarding the use of these contracts, along the same lines of those established for when-actually-employed appointments, and to report thereon, in the context of his next overview report, to the General Assembly at the main part of its sixty-ninth session;

Third: What is the UN's (or UNMISS') response to South Sudan's information minister Michael Makuei saying “When you go and interview a rebel who ran away from here and you come and play that interview on government territory, and you know that man is not friendly -- this is not the meaning of journalism. You interview him outside and publish it, whatever you do, outside, but when you come and disseminate this poisonous information inside South Sudan, it is an offense.”

What is UNMISS' (or the UN's) response to that, and to Wau University students petition for the UN to leave Bahr al Ghazal. To assist your answering:

Winnie Babihuga, the world body’s representative in Western Bahr el Ghazal state welcomed the student’s petition and promised to forward it to its headquarters in New York.”

Has the petition yet arrived? This is an ongoing request to be informed if and when it does.

  At the March 13 noon briefing, Dujarric told the first questioner on Ukraine, that is a legitimate question. Does this mean, to Dujarric, that corruption and freedom of the press questions are NOT legitimate?  Apparently this is the case.
   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.

  So on March 20, it was a UNCA executive committee top heavy circus, here were their election results, compared to votes for that position in December 2011, those called on in the short March 20 Q&A in bold:

Dec '13 Dec '11

Prez: * 78 [85] Pamela Falk, CBS News TV and Radio

1st VP * 74 [79] Kahraman Haliscelik, TRT Turkish Radio & TV

2d VP * 48 71 Masood Haider, Dawn, Pakistan

* 48 [71] Sylviane Zehil, L’Orient Le Jour

3d VP * 55 [62] Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress

38 Ali Barada, An-Nahar/France 24

Trez * 81 [71] Bouchra Benyoussef, Maghreb Arab Press

Sect * 79 [81] Seana Magee, Kyodo News

Members at Large:

* 57 1. Nabil Abi Saab , Alhurra TV (US BBG)

* 57 2. Talal Al-Haj ,Al-Arabiya News channel

22 3. George Baumgarten , Jewish Newspapers, Nation Media

* 50 4. Sherwin Bryce-Pease, South African Broadcasting (SABC)

* 51 5. Zhenqiu Gu, Xinhua News Agency

* 69 6. Melissa Kent, CBC/Radio Canada

* 56 7. Evelyn Leopold, Huffington Post Contributor

49 8. J. Tuyet Nguyen, German Press Agency DPA

* 67 9. Michelle Nichols, Reuters

41 10. Edwin Nwanchukwu, News Agency of Nigeria

27 11. Cia Pak, Scannews

*54 12. Valeria Robecco, ANSA

* 54 13. Sangwon Yoon , Bloomberg

  Some of the elected are new and their positions on UNCA Executive Committee members trying to get other (investigative) media thrown out of the UN, and the need to preclude this and UNCA leaders' anonymous social media trolling, are not yet known. (Some not elected were among the better / more diverse candidates.)

  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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