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Amid Meles Memories, Ban's Silence on Jailing of UN Staff & Press to End?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- The confirmed death of Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi will surely give rise at the UN to a moment of silence in the General Assembly and more.

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon named Meles Zenawi a co-chair on climate change and Sustainable Development, and Inner City Press has praised his role in advocating for additional funding for Africa.

  But in terms of the UN, it must be noted that it never answered and seemingly never followed up on issues like the arrest and seven year sentencing by Meles Zenawi's government of its own UN staff member Abdulrahman Sheikh Hassan, nor the arrest and sentence of journalists for even covering the conflict in Ogaden.

  Back on December 27, 2011, Inner City Press asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office:

"In Ethiopia, now the EU has joined others in denouncing the 11 year sentences for two journalists who were covering the war in Ogaden. Now does the UN have any comment, despite or more appropriately because the Secretary General put Ethiopia's leader atop one of his Sustainable Development panels? When did the S-G last speak with Meles Zenawi? Did the S-G raise this issue?"

  At 5:15 pm on December 27, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office told Inner City Press, "On the Swedish journalists, we don't have any comment at the moment but if that changes we'll let you know."

  But nothing has since been said.  On June 22, 2012 Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: the case in, in Ethiopia where a UN staff member was found guilty of terrorism for having met or allegedly met with the Ogaden Liberation Front. You said that the UN was asking the Government for clarification... Now Abdulrahman Sheikh Hassan has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Did the UN get any clarification from the Government and is the UN lodging any protest at the imprisonment of its own staff member for speaking to a rebel group?

Spokesperson Nesirky: We’re obviously aware of these reports, and if I have anything further beyond what was said on Monday, then I’ll let you know.

   But two months later, nothing. Inner City Press asked at the time: sometimes could silence be consent? And might this pattern now belatedly end? Will these issues, and those of Eritrea and others, be part of the (other) media coverage? Watch this site.

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