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To Mali, After Reuters Misreported Liberians On Way, Plane & Training Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21, updated -- The departure on June 20 of Liberian soldiers by plane for the peacekeeping mission in Mali was reported by Reuters as a fact, as having already taken place that day.

  This was repeated in, among others, the Chicago Tribune, the Global Post, Yahoo News and, ironically, "Eyewitness" News.

There was only one problem: the Liberian troops did NOT go to Mali.

  Inner City Press asked the UN Mission in Liberia why they had not left, along with the new Free UN Coalition for Access, now pushing all parts of the UN system to be more accessible and answer questions, including by Twitter. (The FUNCA_info twitter feed is here.)

After that story appeared in Google News, and while the false Reuters report continued to circulate in Switzerland and back to Liberia, UNMIL responded: "The plane scheduled to carry soldiers developed mechanical problem. Once resolved AFL soldiers will be on their way to Mali."

  This was sent between 4 and 5 am Friday, New York time. Still the Reuters story circulated, even on Voice of America -- which uses US taxpayer money to pay Reuters for stories which are, in this and other cases, incorrect.

  This story had fully four bylines or credits: "Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Angus MacSwan."

Did too many cooks spoil the journalistic Soup? Among other things, FUNCA fights for the rights of smaller, less corporate media -- and for its troubles faces attacks, even on its sign, from the UN and its partners.

Another Reuters four-way flub happened recently with the mis-naming of South Sudan in connection with the killing of UN peacekeeping in Kadugli in Sudan, still without explanation, with the quartet of "Reporting By Michelle Nichols in New York and Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Michael Roddy."

  In that case, while they have still not deigned to explain it and their uncorrected stories remain online, it appears that Reuters simply took and retyped mistaken information provided by UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous' spokesperson Kieran Dwyer.

  Ladsous is the one making but not taking Press questions on supposed human rights due diligence and training, while seeking to include the Chadian Army, on the UN's own list of child soldier recruiters, in the Mali peacekeeping force, along with these 50 Liberians.

  The Liberian troops were given training in May from the US Marines, called Operation Guardian Angel. Notably, one of the two units of the Congolese Army implicated in the 135 rapes at Minova in late November 2012, the 391st Battalion, was also trained by the US. Has the training changed?

  Now Inner City Press in conjunction with the new FUNCA project has on deadline asked UNMIL's top three spokespeople "if the plane scheduled to carry the soldiers was a UN plane, a Liberian plane, or a plane of another country -- and if so, which one -- and to describe any human rights and child protection training they have received or will receive.

Update: Deputy spokesperson Aleem Siddique responded quickly, "I understand that the plane carrying the AFL troops was an American plane." And it broke down? There are other questions. Watch this site.

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