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On Sri Lanka, UN Silent As Survivors Banned from South, Media Can't Go North

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- In Sri Lanka, Channel 4 was blocked from traveling to the North to film. Families of the disappeared were banned from traveling south to Colombo.

  In New York, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky about the banning of the survivors of the disappeared; we have no comment at this stage, he replied. Video here and embedded below. When, then?

  Even the UK's William Hague raised the issues with Sri Lankan foreign minister GL Peiris. Where is the UN? And what does its "Rights Up Front" plan, leaked to Inner City Press but still deemed "internal" by the UN, really mean?

From the UN's November 12 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: yesterday you said to listen to what the Secretary-General said to Member States, so I did and he did now name this document of rights--

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Rights Up Front.

Question: Rights Up Front, okay, so it does exist. I wanted to know, will it be a formally public document? Earlier the Deputy Secretary-General had said that it might be released once some part of it had been implemented, I just wanted to know how doÖ given that he said this is going to go out through the system, what are the next steps? I asked you yesterday about the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, I wanted to be more specific. There have been various complaints raised in the run-up of restrictions on the press, there was a BBC report about, not 2009, but 2013 abductions and rapes committed by the Government, so my question is whatís the Secretary-Generalís current thinking, not simply about what he said about the study of 2009, but the current issues that are very much being raised? Especially on press freedom, can he say anything? Thanks, thatís the question.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, with regard to the second part, I will come back to you on that. I donít have anything specific at this point. On the first question, yes, you did listen and you did hear. And it is known as the Rights Up Front Action Plan, and this was the Secretary-Generalís intention to explain to Member States in a little bit of detail what this is about. And of course more detail will be provided to Member States in the near future. And likewise, I would anticipate that we will also be able to brief the media in a little bit more detail, but not right now. And certainly the key part of this is to ensure that it is implemented. And there has been a concerted effort within the UN family, all the different parts of the United Nations system that have been working on this, to do precisely that. And there is a clear commitment amongst the senior leadership to make that happen. So the focus at the moment is on what is an important internal process with external ramifications; the focus is on implementing. And certainly, the intention is both to brief Member States in more detail and, of course, in due course, the media as well.

When? Watch this site.


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