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Turkey Crackdown Echoed in UN, Complaint to UN Disappears from Net

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- Turkey's law allowing the banning of web pages without any court order and deporting of journalist Mahir Zeynalov are not its only recent abuses. The crackdown on the press is also echoed in Egypt and Angola, about Syria, and inside the UN.

   In Turkey, another new law makes providing "unauthorized medical care punishable by one to three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million."

Back on November 26, Inner City Press asked the UN about the law:

Inner City Press: There’s a law in Turkey that’s being considered that would criminalize medical treatment without the authorization of the Government, even if done by a licensed doctor and many people are saying this is a response to the crackdown or to the treatment given to protesters in Occupy Gezi and other things. So doctors groups have written to the Turkish Government and said this would violate their rights as doctors to practice. But, I wonder, does the UN system see as sort of an indirect restriction on protest, i.e. medical treatment to protestors if they’re tear-gassed, in the same way, and is there any comment on this Turkish proposal?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Not at the moment, but I will certainly look into that, Matthew.

  But no answer has yet been provided by the UN. Now the law to remove or block web pages without judicial review. On this as to the UN it should be noted not only did the UN turn what used to be a press area next to the Security Council into the so-called "Turkish Lounge" from which most journalists are banned -- a leaked complaint by one of the few scribes routiney hob-nobbing in the Turkish Lounge, Reuters' UN bureau chief, has been blocked from Google's Search without any court or apparently other review.

 The right to freedom of the press is being circumvented by a cynical request on the part of Reuters to remove leaked documents from Google's search. Of this abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about this case:

"Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse."

  In this case, copyright is being (mis) claimed for an email from Reuters' Lou Charbonneau to the UN's chief Media Accreditation official Stephane Dujarric, seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. 

  Access to the document has been blocked from Google's search based on a cursory take-down request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

 If this remains precedent, what else could come down?

  Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:

The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here:

  But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed "never gave permission [for it] to be published." Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?

  Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered "private"? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.

  Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is "private" and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say,

  Charbonneau's bad-faith argument says his complaint to the UN was "published on a blog." Is THAT what Reuters claims makes it different that publication in some other media?

  The logic of Reuters' and Charbonneau's August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the project, is profoundly anti free press.

  The fact that Google accepts or didn't check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn't made to or its server -- it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.

  The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?

  Here is the text of Charbonneau's communication to the UN's top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU's manager, to which he claimed "copyright" and for now has banned from Google's Search:

Hi Isabelle and Stephane,

I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He's obviously gotten wind that there's a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn't know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I "disgust" him, etc.

In all my 20+ years of reporting I've never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He's become someone who's making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.

I just thought you should know this.


Louis Charbonneau
Bureau Chief. United Nations
Reuters News Thomson Reuters reuters. com

This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.

"UNCA" in the for-now banned e-mail is the United Nations Correspondents Association. The story developed here, as to Sri Lanka; here is a sample pick-up in Italian.

 There is another related form of censorship in the news today: journalist Sharmine Narwani, who wrote on Syria and other topics for Huffington Post before its acquisition by America Online, has had all of her work on the site summarily removed or disappeared. Click here then here for that.

  For the record, the Free UN Coalition to Access, formed after the old UN Correspondents Association was turned into a vehicle to try to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, has also spoken up along with many others for Gulf media (in particular only because based on personal knowledge Australian reporter Peter Greste) detained in Egypt, and for Angolan radio editor Queiros Chiluvia of Radio Despertar detained for looking into screams from a police station. Could that have been.. "unauthorized medical treament"?  Watch this site.


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