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On Sri Lanka, UN Is Asked of Censoring Critics, John Holmes, Some Stay Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- When the UN's long delayed report into its own actions and inactions in Sri Lanka was "given to the BCC and New York Times" on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky when Ban would formally get the report from its author Charles Petrie, and when Ban would make it public.

  Nesirky replied that the meeting would take place Wednesday morning, and the report would be made public "soon after that." Transcript here and below.

  Inner City Press requested that Petrie and more importantly Ban Ki-moon be available for questions. Nesirky said, "that's being looked into. We are obviously aware of the interest."

  But despite the expressed interest, the UN is trying to let only its own UN Photo and UNTV be present as Petrie hands over (for the second time?) the report to Ban Ki-moon.

  Inner City Press as soon as it saw Ban's schedule and more limited Media Alert sent Nesirky and his Deputies a request that

"the Secretary General's meeting on November 14 at 9:30 am with ASG Charles Petrie be opened to coverage by international Press, as for example his November 12 meeting with Romano Prodi was...

"Additionally, please state or summarize the restrictions if any that former UN staff (such as John Holmes) are under when speaking publicly about or evaluating their work for the UN, and if the UN has considered lifting any such restrictions. Also, again, please state regarding the Petrie report, what (three?) other people worked on it?"

  Despite the expressed interest, hours later (and mere hours before the hand-over and UN-only photo op) there had been no response.

  John Holmes, beyond overseeing a UN department which concealed the number of killed civilians in Sri Lanka, also tried to censor Press coverage of his on the record comments during Ban's May 2009 "victory tour" of Sri Lanka, click here for that.

 Holmes attempt to censor almost worked. And even now, with New York Times bragged it was given the report but only timely reporting it on its blog, the story is reported "from London," even by agencies ostensibly covering the UN. Watch this site.

   From the UN's New York Headquarters' November 13 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you on, on Sri Lanka, it’s now reported that the Charles Petrie report is either it is in its penultimate form or finished and to be handed over to the Secretary-General. I know that there, there’s, obviously you are under some constraints, but is Mr. Petrie in town and if so, whenwill he meet personally with the Secretary-General to turn in this report?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, first of all we don't comment on leaked documents; that’s the first thing.

And the second thing is, as I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General will be receiving the report of his Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka this week. When he does receive it and has read it, it will be made public. And I can tell you that, indeed, tomorrow morning the Secretary-General will be meeting Charles Petrie, who headed the panel. And I would anticipate that the report will be made public soon after that.

Inner City Press: I want to make this request in advance, I’ve been thinking of the Benazir Bhutto report, and I remember in this, I think it was in this room that the Chair, Mr. [Marzuki] Darusman, gave a press conference, is there some ability to have Q and A either of Mr. Petrie or the Secretary-General on this important report of the UN’s own performance?

Spokesperson: That’s being looked into. We are obviously aware of the interest and that’s one reason why it is being made public.

Watch this site.

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