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Reuters' Charbonneau Stole Feltman Scoop, Tried to Get UN To Eject ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee, Media Critique

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 -- Three days after the exclusive report by Inner City Press that US official Jeffrey Feltman would replace Lynn Pascoe as the head of the UN Department of Political Affairs was stolen by Reuters, which unlike Foreign Policy's The Cable gave no credit, it is emerged that Reuters' UN reporter Louis Charbonneau sought to have Inner City Press ejected from the UN. See Charbonneau's e-mail to the UN, here.

   Inner City Press' scoop about Feltman was published back on  March 28. Thereafter, Charbonneau wrote to the head of the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, and to her supervisor the former spokesman of Kofi Annan, claiming that Inner City Press' reporter is "making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs."  Reuters' Charbonneau's e-mail is in this context being put online here.

  Charbonneau sent copies of his email to, among others, Tim Witcher of Agence France Presse, who previously at the behest of the French Mission to the UN sought to have Inner City Press disciplined for reporting that the French Mission didn't know that then-President Nicolas Sarkozy would switch Herve "The Drone" Ladsous for Jerome Bonnafont as the French head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

  Hard to do their jobs, indeed.

In the "incident" Charbonneau refers to, Inner City Press had just been informed by another correspondent that Charbonneau had sought to bypass Inner City Press on communications which should have been sent to it, with the goal of getting Inner City Press ejected. (Inner City Press is choosing not to divulge more due to a rule, largely pushed by Charbonneau, that all proceeding be confidential. Suffice it for now to say that beyond seeking to serve himself and Reuters by complaining to the UN, Charbonneau was abusing power and position.)

  So disgust was expressed, no violence or even the threat of it. Charbonneau tried to use this word "disgust" -- accurate, as it turns out -- to get the UN to eject Inner City Press.

On May 21 after seeing Charbonneau listed on the Reuters article which stole the Feltman scoop, Inner City Press sent him an e-mail with the full text of the initial and exclusive March 28 report. Charbonneau did not and has not responded to the e-mail.

Inner City Press then sought to post a comment on the story on the website. While other non-substantive comments were allowed by Reuters, this one was not.

So Inner City Press for two days sought to reach Reuters editors or officials. The links to the two editors on the triple-bylined story led only to their "blogs." (The three bylined reporters were "Arshad Mohammed, Warren Strobel and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Vicki Allen and Eric Beech.)

Reuters' "Director of Global Communications" Barb Burg was reachable only through a secretary, Alexis who on May 23 finally said to e-mail the two of the above. One was "out of the office;" the other has yet to respond, even after a follow up message on May 24.

Meanwhile we will now report that Reuter's UN Correspondent Lou Charbonneau states that he has personally adopted a policy of NOT crediting Inner City Press, allegedly based on another report more than a year ago in which after Reuters' Charbonneau reported he has "seen" a report, Inner City Press posted the whole report on line.

  Yesterday to remove any pretext, Inner City Press immediately after Charbonneau's belated complaint removed from the Internet both the story and the report.

  Inner City Press previously reported that Ban Ki-moon's Darfur envoy Ibrahim Gambari had attended and taken photos with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir at a wedding reception for Chad's Idriss Deby and the daughter of janjaweed militia founder Musa Hillal. To prove the point, Inner City Press searched for and found the wedding reception photos online, with no apparent copyright.

   During a later dispute, Reuters or simply its UN correspondent Louis Charbonneau made a claim of copyright to the photographs -- the impunity significance of which Reuters had not written about -- and Inner City Press in an abundance of caution removed these and all photos from its story. But who was served? Who was protected, by whom?

  Charbonneau earlier this month, after Inner City Press asked Kosovo's Enver Hoxhaj about his country's support of Syria, took the answers as a stand-alone story with no credit. (Charbonneau has asked about Kosovo's Brussels office, a non-story). Compare UN video to Charbonneau's Reuters "story."

  It should be noted that other exclusives have been stolen at the UN. Earlier this year Inner City Press reported that 14 kilograms of cocaine were found in the UN mail room and covered up.

  After writing the story, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about it at the next noon briefing. He had no answer, but later in the day organized a 6 pm stakeout by UN Security chief Gregory Starr to "rebut" the charges.

The UN correspondents of Reuters, Bloomberg (changing 14 kilos to "35 pounds"), AFP (changing to "35.5 pounds") Agence France Presse (whose Tim Witcher as noted above was previously used to harass Inner City Press by the French Mission to the UN, after Inner City Press published an expose on France's use of the UN in Cote d'Ivoire, and the last minute switch from Jerome Bonnafont to Herve "The Drone" Ladsous for DPKO), Mexican media and others showed up, many complaining, then wrote stories which other than the Mexican media gave no credit to Inner City Press' underlying exclusive.

  The defense has been that once a press availability is scheduled, even if clear in response to anther media's exclusive, no credit need be given. Is this journalism? Or a club of corporate insiders who will stoop so low as to try to get Ban Ki-moon's UN to eject a reporter who "makes it hard" for them to do their jobs -- and whose exclusives they steal? Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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