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As Ladsous Seizes Mic to Avoid Rape Question, UN Hides Criticism, UNCA Enables

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 4 -- How badly does the UN brass want to protect Herve Ladsous, the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping who refuses to answer Press questions including on drones, rapes by the Congolese Army, and cholera?

  The answer is, so much that it will put its own staff at risk and leave them in the dark.

  On December 18, Ladsous at the Security Council stakeout directed his spokesman to grab the UN Television microphone to try to make it impossible for Inner City Press to ask a question about the 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army, the partners of Ladsous Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Video here.

   Ladsous had already ignored such questions on November 27 and December 7.

   Inner City Press was not alone in its outrage -- so were the UNTV staff and at least some journalists (though apparently not those controlling the UN Correspondents Association, who to the contrary went out into the hallway with Ladsous for a private briefing on November 27, video here.)

  Inner City Press raised the issue immediately with the head of the Department of Public Information. But no response on the issue was ever given.

  At a January 17 meeting by the new Free UN Coalition for Access with DPI's chief and also Stephane Dujarric, who is in charge of UNTV, Dujarric said "I talked to Andre-Michel, I told him it was inappropriate, case is closed, he understands it was inappropriate. It was a mistake by a UN staffer, as you pointed out it also violates union rules, it wasn't the right thing to do."

   But why wasn't this communicated at least to UNTV staff?

  As of mid January, UNTV staff continued to encourage Inner City Press and FUNCA to pursue the issue - so clearly, they were not told by Dujarric. Why not? Is this only to protect Ladsous?

  In fact, while it was said that the answers at the January 17 meeting would be committed to writing by DPI and sent to FUNCA, even Dujarric's February 1 letter did not mention the Ladsous issue.

   When asked why not, Dujarric replied that "I think a number of the questions you raise were, in fact, answered to you in person during our meeting with last month" and asked that his (obviously incomplete) letter be published in full.

  This, of course, would imply that all was well with Ladsous. But is it?

  Also enabling Ladsous, from the very first day he got the job (when AFP's Tim Witcher demanded action by the UN Correspondents Association against Inner City Press' truthful reporting), is UNCA a/k/a the UN's Censorship Alliance.

Things have gotten such that UNCA said nothing when Ladsous said "I don't answer your questions" and then seized the microphone. The UNCA "leaders'" response was to go out into the hall to be spoon-fed by Ladsous.

  Even UNCA's past president said it was a shame (for UNCA) that it "couldn't" defend the Press' right to ask a question and get it answered by Ladsous. But his successor is apparently worse on this: nothing has been said.

   Now Ladsous is slated to brief the Security Council on February 5 about the failed "peace enforcement" deal for Eastern Congo the UN promoted anonymously to embedded journalists on January 25 -- but will he do a stakeout? Will the mic be grabbed or questions avoided?

   Ladsous is also scheduled for a sit-down press conference at the UN noon briefing on February 6. At these, the questions are selected by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople.

   Last time they called on Inner City Press, which asks more questions about, and writes more stories on, UN Peacekeeping than other Correspondents. Then Ladsous refused to answer.

  This time, unless Ban through his spokesperson's office wants to further "enable" Ladsous' dysfunction beyond what DPI's Dujarric has done, one expects again to ask a question, topics foreseeable. But will there be an answer? Watch this site.

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