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On DR Congo, NYT Misreports M23 Looting of Goma Bank, UN Role in Minova Rapes

By Matthew Russell Lee, Media Critique

UNITED NATIONS, December 16, updated -- Everyone's jumping in the Congo, at least in print. Today's New York Times runs a joyless six travelogue by Jeffrey Gettleman, from mass rape to mashed up fruits on the reporter's windshield.

  The call seems to be for truly robust "peacekeeping" like in Somalia, where Kismayo was shelled by a navel force never authorized or paid by the UN Security Council.

  But a telling mistake jumped out at Inner City Press: Gettleman simply reports as fact that the M23 "clean[ed] out the central bank" in Goma. This had been reported by the NYT's UK-based competitor The Guardian, citing an unnamed UN official.

  But when Inner City Press asked the UN in New York about it, the following came back:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Your question on the Central Bank of Goma
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

On the Central Bank in Goma: We checked with DPKO. The UN mission reports that the Central Bank in Goma was not attacked.

  This answer, once reported, gave rise to Twitter back and forth in which some argued that it didn't matter, since M23 "looted" other things. (Taking a losing army's weapons is pretty standard, and not necessarily looting.)

  This is not even mentioning the UN's role in enabling and covering up Kabila's fraudulent elections, which we touched on yesterday, here.

  Nor does Gettleman's tale of rape mention the UN role -- standing by in Walikale, which gave rise to angry public words from the diplomat of the moment, Susan Rice, then standing by again in late November as more than 70 women were raped by Joseph Kabila's forces in Minova.

   The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and its chief Herve Ladsous have refused to answer the Press on which FARDC units were in Minova at the time (we've named the 802 and 1001 regiments), nor even which units the UN works with and supports.

  In this way, it is impossible for the public or press -- except perhaps insiders to whom Herve Ladsous will speak, if only in the hall, video here -- to assess UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

   But none of this is as snarky or dramatic as fruits smashed on a windshield or corpses in the bush.

   So what to do? Inner City Press, rare for it, sent in a comment / letter to the editor at the times, making the Central Bank of Goma and UN Peacekeeping points. Five hours later, even as much newer comments beginning "great article!" were put up, there was no sign of the critique.

  Was this because the New York Times distinguishes between corrections like on the Central Bank of Goma, and opinion? Their online comment page says "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive."

  So was it abusive to point out an error? To test this, Inner City Press resubmitted the comment without anything on the Central Bank of Goma, only that the New York Times went too easy on the UN.

  Then, five hours after submission, the comment went up. But will the mis-report of M23 looting the Central Bank in Goma be corrected? Watch this site.

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