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As NYCLA Asks UN Respond on VOA Bid Against Press, BBG Resists FOIA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- Two weeks ago the US government agency Voice of America pushed the UN to review the accreditation status of Inner City Press.

   This afternoon the New York Civil Liberties Union has written to the UN to "ensure that the U.N.’s procedures for granting or withholding press access are fair and that journalists are not denied access arbitrarily or due to the content of their reporting," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

  The NYCLU letter begins, "We have been informed that Steve Redisch, the Executive Editor of Voice of America, has written a letter of complaint regarding a journalist, Matthew Russell Lee, who currently enjoys press privileges conferred by the UN Department of Public Information. The letter requests that the News and Media Division of DPI review Mr. Lee's accreditation status."

  Immediately after Inner City Press became aware of the complaint -- of which VOA did not send it a copy, and for which the UN has no procedure to provide notice -- it submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to VOA's parent, the US Broadcasting Board of Governor on which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a seat.

  Inner City Press sought to confirm that the "other" journalists beyond VOA's Margaret Besheer whom VOA editor Redisch said were being curtailed in their abililty to report what they see and know of the UN included three other Big Media representatives would are seeking to use the UN Correspondents Association to oust Inner City Press.

These include Bloomberg News, Agence France Presse's Timothy Witcher and Reuters bureau chief Louis Charbonneau who most recently mis-labeled his June 30, 5 pm story about Saudi al-Faqih and sanctions as a Reuters-compensated "exclusive" although Inner City Press had previously published the information more than five hours earlier.

  But on July 3 the US government BBG denied Inner City Press' request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request, and even denied its request for a FOIA fee waiver, which for example the Federal Reserve Board routinely grants Inner City Press.

  Voice of America, it seems, does not want to be transparent about how it spends US taxpayer funds seeking to expel an investigative web site from covering the UN.

  In fact, Reuters' Charbonneau and UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli on June 29 sought to push Inner City Press to withdraw its FOIA request, and after it did not, moved forward with a kangaroo court proceeding against Inner City Press.

But it would seem that the New York Civil Liberties Union knows a little bit more about the rights of the Press than Hamptons landlord Pioli, Reuters' Charbonneau, AFP's Witcher and their cabal do.

  Defending journalists as the UN was supposed to be the UNCA Executive Committee's job but they have done precisely the opposite, even continuing with a proceeding that gave rise to death threats to Inner City Press by extremist supporters of Sri Lanka's government.

In September 2011, Pioli granted the request of Sri Lankan ambassador Palitha Kohona to screen inside the UN, under the UNCA banner, a government propaganda film "Lies Agreed To" which purports to rebut a UK Channel 4 documentary which was NOT shown in the UN, due to a celebration for Ban Ki-moon.

   Pioli did not seek the consent of other elected UNCA Executive Committee members such as Inner City Press, which traveled to Sri Lanka in May 2009 and reported on the aftermath of war crimes.

  Inner City Press reported the fact that Pioli had previously rented one of his twelve apartments to Kohona, when he was head of the UN Treaty Section.

  Pioli demanded that the article be removed from the Internet or he would have Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. (Now, records show Pioli is renting out a house in the Hamptons for $90,000 a month, UNclear to whom.)

  Pioli's response, beyond the ongoing UNCA kargaroo court, has been to threaten to sue Inner City Press for money.

   Is VOA working for Pioli (and Sri Lanka's government), or are Pioli and his First Vice President Charbonneau of Reuters now working on behalf of VOA, asking that Inner City Press withdraw a journalist's Freedom of Information Act request? Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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