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As Photos Erased in Myanmar, Nambiar Checking, Happened in UN, Censorship

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 26 -- While extremist Buddhist monks were burning a mosque in Meikhtila in central Myanmar, journalists seeking to document it were attacked, cameras taken, memory cards destroyed.

  On Tuesday when UN envoy Vijay Nambiar called in from Thailand, Inner City Press asked him about the attacks, and what if anything the UN is doing to collect evidence.

  Nambiar replied, “we had heard about this, we are in process of checking” what he called “efforts to forcibly prevent journalists from reporting.” Video here from Minute 11:40.

  Right in the UN in New York, we've noted, photographers were ordered to remove and erase their memory cards, admittedly only of Beyonce and not the burning of a mosque.

  But thus is the UN corrupted -- despite the photo deletion issue being twice raised, the only response has been to whisper to the UN's cafeteria contractor Aramark, which had nothing to do with the incident. Click here.

  Of the UN, Nambiar said it is “difficult for us to collect evidence, we need cooperation from civil society and other elements.”

  Further passing the buck, he added that “in coming weeks more outsiders, including members of the diplomatic community will be in a position to visit and collect information.”

  There are a number of misunderstandings about the killings, now numbering at least 40, in central Myanmar. The UN-selected first question for Nambiar, taken by the UN Correspondents Association in that name, conflated this with the violence against the Rohingya. Video here, from Minute 6:10.

When Inner City Press was called on it thanked Nambiar on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, because UNCA had first thrust itself forward.

  Ironically, given the Myanmar press censorship question raised, UNCA itself has become known at the UN's Censorship Alliance, tearing down FUNCA flyers and most recently having its president Pamela Falk take photographs of the UN's March 18 raid on Inner City Press' office.

  Falk then made a legal threat, from her e-mail address, to not dare even question why she took the photographs, despite photos from the raid showing up in BuzzFeed on March 22 and the UN denying these were “their” pictures.

  While the UN, given immunity, is more lawless than Myanmar, on the bright side in the US while a person or company like CBS can make all the legal threats it wants, it is dubious to claim “false light” defamation for asking question about a public figure. But hey, they don't call it the UN's Censorship Alliance for nothing.

Footnote: Nambiar, when he was Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, in Sri Lanka ran into problems of evidence collection, to put it diplomatically. Now with anti-Press moves at the UN, one wonders, and hopes to find out, the views of his successor. Watch this site.

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