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UN: Sri Lanka


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As UN Said Closed to Complaints on Sri Lanka, Lankan Dip In Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17, updated Nov 18 -- On Sri Lanka at UN headquarters in New York the disinterest and delegation continue. On November 17, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq the following, transcript here, video on Inner City Press YouTube here:

Inner City Press: the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, GL Peiris, has announced today that he met with Subinay Nandy, the Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, to complain about the Human Rights Council inquiry.  He made a variety of complaints.  What I wanted to ask you about is in the reporting on it, it says that as part of that inquiry, they complained that all information to the panel should go in by 30 October; and under Government complaints, they have now said that they've closed that e-mail account that took in complaints. 

My question is:  can that be confirmed?  The reason I'm asking you is, given this "Rights Up Front" announced by the Secretary-General, it seems inconsistent to set up a channel to receive human rights complaints and then say not just that you're past the deadline, but we'll look at it through another way, but we'll actually close down the channel to receive the information.  Is that in fact the case?  And what did Mr. Nandy, as the representative of Secretary-General in Sri Lanka, hear from the Government today?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  You're talking about the Government's own efforts, not our efforts?

Inner City Press:  I'm talking about the Human Rights Council having set up an e-mail account to receive complaints for its human rights, its Panel of Inquiry in War Crimes in 2009, and now having said publicly that they are closing down that account so nothing can be submitted over it.  How is that consistent with Rights Up Front?  And what did Mr. Nandy say in response to Sri Lanka today?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We have to check with the Human Rights Council, as to whether that's accurate.

 We'll have more on this.

Update of November 18: the UN Spokesperson wrote:

Your question from yesterday on Sri Lanka
to Matthew
As the High Commissioner for Human Rights made clear in his press statement ( on 7 November, the deadline for submissions was 30 October, and the email address for receiving those submissions had therefore been shut down after the deadline passed."

  But again, how is this consistent with Ban's claimed "Rights Up Front"? To shut down a channel for human rights complaints?

 Back on November 3, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman about Sri Lanka's allegations about "blank human rights complaint forms." There was no substantive answer; four days later, it was Prince Zeid from Geneva who spoke out.

  The Sri Lankan government shot back at Zeid, and since then President Mahinda Rajapaksa has accused Norwegian diplomat Erik Solheim of funding the LTTE. It's election season in Sri Lanka - and, although without competition, in the UN and its Censorship Alliance, which on November 17 will play host to a former Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN.

   The Sri Lankan government has blamed Zeid's statement for what they were already doing: banning the human rights investigators.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha has written to Zeid, "This type of action on your part would regrettably constrain constructive engagement which the Government of Sri Lanka has consistently sought to pursue." Right.

  In UN headquarters this is pattern used by the United Nations Correspondents Association under Giampaolo Pioli, now slated to return without competition to bring his unique brand of censorship back to the already decaying group.

  When Inner City Press reported as context for Pioli's unilateral decision grant an "UNCA" screening for Sri Lanka's war crimes denial film "Lies Agreed To" that Pioli had rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Aryashinha's counterpart in New York Palitha Kohona, Pioli said take the story off the Internet or he would get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.

  When Inner City Press complained about this attempt at censorship, by a group that was ostensibly supposed to defend journalists and freedom of the press, these complaints including sent in writing to the private owners of Pioli's listed employers QUOTIDIANO NAZIONALE/LA NAZIONE/Il Resto del Carlino / IL GIORNO, Poligrafici Editoriale S.p.A. via Stefania Dal Rio, and to Voice of America --

this was used as the excuse to, yes, try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.  Here is Voice of America's letter, for which it said it had the support of AFP and Reuters, which then moved to censor its own anti-Press complaint to the UN, here.

  Writing to QUOTIDIANO NAZIONALE/LA NAZIONE/Il Resto del Carlino / IL GIORNO, Poligrafici Editoriale S.p.A. was said, by Voice of America, to have these companies "preparing a libel lawsuit" -- never filed. It was only meant to silence and censor. And now Pioli reappears, annointed by two year figure head Pamela Falk, to take the helm again at UNCA, become not the UN Correspondents Association but rather the UN's Censorship Alliance. There is no competition.

  And so when former Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN Jayantha Dhanapala appears on November 17 in the UN Censorship Alliance, in an event from which critical media has been banned, what's to be expected? Some muse, the offer to rent another apartment? This is today's UN.

Shavendra Silva, Pioli & his former tenant Kohona, a story here

  There has been controversy, we note, about Jayantha Dhanapala being on the board of Dialog Axiata PLC, a Sri Lanka telecommunications company which among other things blocked access to the Colombo Telegraph in that country: censorship.

 While a publication Inner City Press respects argues it's all more complicated, why is Dhanapala appearing in the UN Censorship Alliance, propping it up, and not for example the UN Press Briefing Room? Watch how the UN Censorship Alliance, and not the sponsors, pitch an appearance by the Deputy Secretary General. We'll have more on this.

   In 2009 it was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who was taken on the Rajapaksas' victory tour of the bloodbath on the beach. Some of Inner City Press' coverage is here.

 In 2011 Sri Lanka's denial of war crimes, “Lies Agreed To,” was screened inside the UN, hosted by the then-president of UNCA, become the UN's Censorship Alliance.

On November 3, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about a new development, transcript here:

Inner City Press: In Sri Lanka, a newspaper has reported that the Government is searching people down for having “blank human right complaints forms” to the inquiry of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. And since, obviously, there are people who are now charged with this and on the run, I wanted to know: Can you state from this podium or sometime today, are there even… do such forms even exist? Is there a blank form for this inquiry? And if so--

Spokesman Dujarric: I don't know. You may want to refer that question to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights here.

Inner City Press: Okay. Even if it were to exist, should people be hunted down for having these forms?

Spokesman Dujarric: Obviously, I can't tell you… I don't know of the existence of these forms or whether there is a police action against it. Obviously, it's important that people have the right to cooperate, should they wish, with any UN human rights investigation

The article is easy to find; it is in The Island, which got leaked one of Ban Ki-moon's wan reports on Sri Lanka. But eight hours later, nothing.

 In the interim, the previous president of UNCA Giampaolo Pioli, who when Inner City Press reported on his screening of Rajapaksa's war crimes denial film and the fact that Pioli previously rented one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona, still Sri Lanka's Ambassador, tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, made a new move.

  Pioli is positioning himself to again head UNCA, posting his name as the only candidate, endorsed by Pamela Falk of CBS who filled in for his for two years. UNCA has not been reformed in any way since its kangaroo proceeding against Inner City Press resulted in death threats.

  Inner City Press submitted requests under the US Freedom of Information Act to Voice of America, whose Margaret Basheer wrote at the time that the newspaper of UNCA's president -- Pioli -- was preparing to sue Inner City Press for libel for the entirely true report that Pioli rented real estate to Kohona -- pictured below with Pioli and Shavendra Silva.

 It was pure intimidation and big media abuse, an attempt to censor. Inner City Press raised the death threats from Sri Lanka to Pioli's private held newspaper in Italy -- which allows Pioli to, for example, make campaign contributions to politicians he is supposedly covering -- resulting in yet more threats of litigation, attempts to intimidate and censor. There are more more documents obtained under FOIA, and audio clips, most not yet published.

Since then, Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access. But Ban Ki-moon's UN continues to prop up its UN Censorship Alliance, giving it a big room for free to hold screenings in, setting aside all first questions for it, using it to pretend to be doing a good job on press freedom and such issues as Sri Lanka war crimes. We'll have more on this.


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