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Ladsous Justifies Refusal of Press Qs, Stonewalls on Mercenaries & DRC Killings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- Is it legitimate for a UN official paid hundreds of thousands of dollar a year, tax free, to refuse to any questions from a UN accredited journalist based solely on the journalist's critical coverage?

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous have taken this position for eight weeks now. Yesterday the position was reiterated, and requested answers not provided.

  Ladsous' spokesman Kieran Dwyer on July 19 wrote that Inner City Press' written coverage of "Ladsous since he took up his position have made it impossible to have a professional engagement with Inner City Press on the substance of peacekeeping work."

  A question is, whose lack of "professionalism" was on display on June 17, when at a stakeout on UN Television Inner City Press asked Ladsous for his response to Spain cutting its troop contribution to the UN Mission in Lebanon in half, and if his Mission in the Congo had as reported killed civilians.

Ladsous refused to answer either question, and Dwyer quotes himself as saying, "we are on the record as not answering your questions due to your personal attacks." Video here, Minute 6:50.

 Ladsous began this strategy of explicitly conditioning answering or even taking question on getting positive -- and we and others posit, as yet unmerited -- coverage on May 29 in a televised press conference, and has continued it off camera since.

   Can critical coverage of the job performance of a international civil servant be called the type of "personal attack" that justifies refusing to answer questions about job (and Department) performance?

   Dwyer writes that his on-camera July 17 refusal to answer was "in line with Under-Secretary-General Ladsous’s response to your noon briefing question of 29 May, when he said 'I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and spreading malicious and insulting insinuations.'"

   Again, can the publication of reviews of DPKO's performance under Ladsous, and his plans for example for the use of drones which several member states have criticized as not having enough safeguards be construed as "malicious and insulting insinuations"?

  By contrast, at the same stakeout position where Ladsous and Dwyer on July 17 refused to answer basic questions about the UNIFIL and MONUSCO missions, on July 20 Ambassadors Rice, Lyall Grant, Wittig, Li and Churkin all took and answered questions from Inner City Press.

  Diplomats employed by their own nations -- in these cases the US, UK, Germany, China and Russia, respectively -- might more easily say they can openly refuse to answer particular journalists' or media's questions.

  But Ladsous is paid by the UN, that is, by global taxpayers. He claims that he does not work for France.

   So on what basis does he refuse to do what Ambassadors Rice, Lyall Grant, Wittig, Li and Churkin do? (It might be worth noting that of all the Ambassadors who spoke at the Security Council stakeout in the past two days the only one who, through his spokesman, refused to take any question from Inner City Press was French Ambassador Gerard Araud.)

  After receiving Dwyer's justification for his and Ladsous' refusal to answer questions, which was copied to Ban Ki-moon's two top spokesmen, Inner City Press replied that it is "opposed to conditioning answering or even taking questions on the content of press coverage" and "will continue to ask questions, including about DPKO and its missions, and to report on the responses, or lack of responses."

   Inner City Press then after Thursday's Security Council meeting asked four questions of DPKO, and two of Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat, none of which have been answered or even acknowledged by mid-Friday afternoon:

I would still on Syria like a description of USG Ladsous' role in the June 15 notification to the Security Council that UNSMIS has limited its mobile operations in Syria as of 18:00 hours local that day, see

and an explanation of the steps taken since the S-G (and presumably USG Ladsous) received UNSMIS' report on Houla, where in the UN he referred it and why it has not even now been provided to the Security Council, according to several Council members.

  Also from today, I'd like an answer how SRSG Martin Kobler's stakeout statement that UNAMI does not use private military (or security) contractors other than for dogs comports with these two budget lines:

HART SECURITY LIMITED    CYP    Training, other    $437,444    11AMI-20387    UNAMI

HART SECURITY LIMITED    CYP    AMI/CON/2011/041    Provision of Security Awareness Induction Training Training (SAIT) for UNAMI    1-Aug-11    31-Jul-12    $1,143,682    UNAMI

  This last seems to runs through July 31, 2012 - still in force.

I am also requesting to be informed whenever MONUSCO finishes its review of the effects of its use of helicopter gunships / missiles in North Kivu. 

  And, to those you cc-ed, I'd like like answers to the two non-bomb questions I emailed in yesterday afternoon.

  Those were:

what is the UN's response to this criticism from Sierra Leone (here), and to the Staff Union's statement yesterday urging the S-G to do more on staff detentions in Myanmar and prison term in Ethiopia?

 No noon briefing questions were taken on Thursday, and there was no noon briefing at all on Friday -- the point here is that there might have been time to answer at least one of these questions. But at least as to Ladsous, there is a stated "on the record" policy of not answering Press questions. Is that legitimate? 

  As Inner City Press wrote on July 18, we'll pursue this -- and, we hope, answers to the questions Ladsous refused to answer or even take, on top of the unanswered questions about DPKO introducing cholera into Haiti, and Ban and Ladsous having as a Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations an alleged war criminal, Sri Lankan general Shavendra Silva.

 Notably Ladsous did take Press questions earlier in May, and what he fastened on between then and May 29 is mysterious and / or troubling. Watch this site

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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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