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On Myanmar, After UN Praise, ICP Asks of Rohingya Banned from Voting

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- The UN read out a glowing statement about Myanmar from envoy Vijay Nambiar on February 12. Inner City Press asked this follow up question:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask a slightly, more specifically on Myanmar.  This same day the President, Thein Sein, has essentially taken away the right to vote that had been granted to Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities to vote on a Constitutional referendum.  So, it seems like this was big news today.

Spokesman Dujarric:  You're talking about the issue of the ID cards?

Inner City Press:  Yes.  And being able to vote…

Spokesman:  The issue of the ID [identification] cards, we've seen that.  We're very concerned about the reported notification that holders of temporary ID cards will be required to hand over their cards.  This is something that Mr. Nambiar is following closely and he's trying to get further details as to what this order actually means and how it fits in with things that have been, the Government had committed itself to before.  So, short answer is that, obviously, we're concerned by these reports, and we're trying to find out a bit more.

Inner City Press:  And, in fact, if they can't vote, will there will be a similar…?

Spokesman:  I think first step is, obviously, to find out what the situation is.  Second step is to talk about it. 

  Let's see if the UN talks about it. Amid attacks on journalists and freedom of expression in countries all over the world, the United Nations under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is no sanctuary, nor champion, the Free UN Coalition for Access has found.

  Beyond stealth attempts to get the Press thrown out of the UN, there is often little but platitudes about attacks elsewhere.  FUNCA is Pressing the issue.

  On January 8, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Myanmar jailing at least 10 journalists, and Saudi Arabia preparing to flog a blogger, video here:

Inner City Press / FUNCA: I have two “freedom of the press” questions.  One is about Myanmar. The UN country team there. I saw that the Deputy Secretary-General’s meeting with the UN resident coordinator from Myanmar today.  In light of “Je Suis Charlie," I wanted to ask you the following:  Myanmar is listed as one of the top 10 jailers of journalists.  At least 10 journalists are in jail for having criticized the Government.  And I wanted to know, is it possible to know now or perhaps to hear from this resident coordinator, is this among the issues that the UN raises to Myanmar and what does the UN think of Myanmar’s record for locking up journalists for what they write?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the meeting is an internal meeting, as there are many between the Secretary-General… between the Deputy Secretary-General and the resident coordinator.  It’s a routine meeting.  As a principle and as I’ve said here repeatedly over the last few days, the Secretary-General has always reiterated his call for full freedom of the press.  He has spoken out when journalists have been jailed and that’s a consistent position of the United Nations.

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  How about flogged?

Spokesman Dujarric: Oh, go ahead.

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  it seems like the timing is just right, if he’s ready to speak out.  There’s a blogger in Saudi Arabia called Raif Badawi, he’s been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for his blogs.  And according to Amnesty International, he’s going to be receiving 50 flogs a week for the next 20 weeks and it begins Friday.  So I wanted to know… this seems pretty extreme.

Spokesman:  Listen, I have… I have not seen that report.  I will take look at it.

  Seven hours later, nothing, even as others have commented on the impending flogging of this blogger.

  On January 6, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about attacks by Turkey on Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink whose home in Diyarbakir was searched amid dark self-serving of terrorism.

  UN Spokesman Dujarric replied he hadn't heard of the case. Video here.

  Also on January 6, FUNCA asked UN Spokesman Dujarric about Kuwait sentencing to one year and eight months in jail Saqr Al-Hashash for insulting - Tweeting against -- the Emir. The UN's response was a platitude. But FUNCA will continue.


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