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AFP's Witcher Didn't Ask How Many DRC Rapes or Deadline, Ladsous' Lapdog

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- The UN does not improve because deadwood officials are dumped on it by powerful countries like France and media like Agence France Presse grant them anonymity, to declare war or cover up inaction on mass rapes, without asking any questions.

  On March 7 Tim Witcher on AFP published a story ostensibly about the 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army, which UN Peacekeeping supports. Inner City Press had asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on December 19 then March 5 about the UN's inaction.

   AFP's March 7 story was based entirely on the statements of an anonymous UN official who claimed that he had given notice “to the DR Congo government in early February that it had to take action against the two battalions which had been in Minova. 'The deadline now is getting very near,' the official said... on condition of anonymity.”

   On March 8 at the stakeout in front of the Security Council, Inner City Press openly asked UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to occupy that post, to name the two battalions he has supposedly given a deadline to, and what the deadline was. Ladsous refused to answer.

  After another reporter asked why and Inner City Press explained, Tim Witcher who was present at the stakeout but had not been spoken to chirped that Inner City Press was engaged in “lies and distortion.”

   Really? Inner City Press had never noticed Witcher or read any of his stories until in September 2011 he claimed that AFP was the source of a portion of Inner City Press' exclusive report on how France dumped Ladsous on the UN as a last minute replacement for Jerome Bonnafont.

  Witcher was angry that Inner City Press reported, correctly, that even the morning of the announcement the French Mission was unaware of the switch that had been made in Paris, from Bonnafont to Ladsous - who, notably, had been rejected for the same job by former Secretary General Kofi Annan.

   Then and now Witcher is a “member at large” of the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association, an organization in a decline even faster than UN Peacekeeping under Ladsous.

   Witcher wrote to another UNCA “leader,” Louis Charbonneau of Reuters as well as the now gone UNCA president to request some kind of action by UNCA over a story published by Inner City Press about the new head of UN peacekeeping which seems to have relied on information overheard in  a canteen conversation. The only French media that the spokesman had communicated with that morning was the AFP correspondent.

    It was impossible, arrogant even, for Witcher to claim to know for a certainty which French media then French Mission spokesman Stephane Crouzat had spoken with that morning.

   Worse was AFP's attempt to use UNCA, ostensibly a organization to defend and expand the rights of journalists to get information at the UN, to censor an entirely accurate story about an incompetent French official being dumped into a high UN position.

   Witcher pursued his, Ladsous' or the French Mission's complaint for weeks in UNCA, using useless and scatological judgment on Inner City Press' accurate and exclusive story and asking UNCA to reprimand Inner City Press.

   Inner City Press asked to attach a dissent to the UNCA executive committee's resulting statement about not using conversations with journalists as source material -- absurd, really -- but was told no, that the UNCA Executive Committee or some members owned the group's e-mail list serv.

   At that time Inner City Press was an elected member of the Executive Committee, but due to the group's descent into censorship and worse, fronted by Voice of America but abetted by the UN bureaux of Agence France Presse and Reuters, it quit and on December 7, 2012 co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access.

   In 2013, UNCA now increasingly known as the UN's Censorship Alliance under “new” president Pamela Falk of CBS has tried to use the UN Department of Public Information official Stephane Dujarric to order Inner City Press to stop accurate reporting of on the record meetings.

   Meanwhile UNCA “leaders” have used anonymous social media accounts to try to undermine the new Free UN Coalition for Access, have scrawled insults on FUNCA flyers and as noted chirped about lies and distortion.

   Witcher continues his slavish stenography for the French Mission and for Ladsous, all the while claiming that accurate quotes about it are, yes, “lies and distortions.”

   After on March 7 typing up and publishing the statements of the anonymous UN official who claimed to have given notice “to the DR Congo government in early February” and that 'the deadline now is getting very near,'” Witcher after hissing about lies and distortions went to the March 8 noon briefing.

   There he asked questions he should have asked to the UN official to which he and AFP granted anonymity the day before. What is the deadline? How many rapes? Witcher mis-took the number of witness statements for the number of rapes. Video here, from Minute 8:54.

   If Witcher in the “off the record” session with the UN official asked to know the deadline and was not told, why omit that from the story, other than to make the official look good? And if he didn't ask, what kind of journalism is this? Oh, we forgot: lies and distortion. Watch this site.

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