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Sri Lanka Gloats of Jail for Press, Citing UNCA, As Ladsous Does Not Respond

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 4 -- In covering the UN, Inner City Press speaks with nearly everyone, from the UN Security officers sold out by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after they were beaten by Turkish president Erdogan's guards, through diplomats up to, though less and less frequently, Ban himself.

  But some in the UN refuse to respond to Inner City Press. These include top UN Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous, his adviser Sri Lankan general (and alleged war criminal) Shavendra Silva, and a dozen members of the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee. There are not unconnected.

  Following a witch hunt against Inner City Press for reporting on a past financial relationship between Sri Lankan Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona and UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli (click here for more nuance) and on the last minute selection of second choice Herve Ladsous, the UN Executive Committee on May 29 mass e-mailed out a letter vaguely charging Inner City Press with harassment.

  The letter, signed by signed by Reuters' Louis Charbonneau, Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia, Margaret Besheer of Voice of America and Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse, was to set up a "Board of Examination" to "investigate" Inner City Press with an eye to expelling it.

  But on June 3, a major government aligned newspaper in Sri Lanka, the Sunday Observer, quoted with approval the UNCA Executive Committee indictment of Inner City Press.

  The newspaper concluded that that "if the allegations against Lee are proven, the UN headquarters will be made out of bounds for him. If the harassment charges are proven he could face a jail term of up to six years."

 It also reports, citing "authoritative diplomatic sources," that

"The United Nations Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) has initiated an inquiry against Inner City Press correspondent Matthew Russell Lee who was operating from the UN Headquarters on his unethical and unprofessional behaviour, authoritative diplomatic sources told the Sunday Observer yesterday. The Executive Committee of the UNCA met on May 29 to discuss his conduct following many complaints received by the Association and voted 13 to one in favour of setting up a five-member board of examination.

Lee's unethical coverage in the Inner City Press dominated issues and sensitive affairs concerning Sri Lanka as well.

The meeting was attended by the President of UNCA Giampiolo Pioli and the Vice Presidents among others. In a letter requesting an inquiry against Lee, five executive committee members wrote to the UNCA President, 'We feel it’s time to consider whether he truly belongs to an organisation of journalists committed to professionalism, ethics and covering the United Nations.' The complaints against him include harassment of media colleagues at the UN.

The members of the examination board will be decided on by June 1 and work will begin thereafter. The examination board will have to report back to the Executive Committee within 10 days.

The sources said if the allegations against Lee are proven, the UN headquarters will be made out of bounds for him. If the harassment charges are proven he could face a jail term of up to six years."

  Who might those "authoritative diplomatic sources" be? Who is this UNCA Executive Committee serving? The article is online at

  After publication of the article, Inner City Press wrote to each member of the UNCA Executive Committee with a copy of the article, formally asking them to disassociate themselves from and bring about the immediate cessation of this anti press freedom climate that has led to this article.

  None responded to this request in writing; only one gave so much as a phone call. Meanwhile as should have been or perhaps was foreseen by UNCA Executive Committee members, the anti Press flow is increasing.

  Click here for sample UNCA minutes released on the night of June 1 from behind Reuters' firewall. Beyond making clear that censorship of Inner City Press' Sri Lanka reporting has been a major focus of UNCA's leadership since at least September 2011, these minutes have material omissions, including that the complaint of Tim Witcher of AFP was about reporting on Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping.

  Witcher, at the behest of the French Mission to the UN, began the push against Inner City Press for its reporting that the Mission didn't know that its capital had switch to second choice Ladsous from Jerome Bonnafont, whose bragging he was getting the post was also exposd by Inner City Press. Ladsous has now accepted Sri Lankan general (and alleged war criminal) Shavendra Silva as a Senior Adviser.

  Last week Ladsous on camera told Inner City Press, "Well, Mister, I will start answering your questions when you stop insulting me and making malicious and insulting insinuations." The video, at Minute 28:10, is online at

  Despite France's claim to support press freedom, not only has its Mission to UN sought to eject Inner City Press and even (unsuccessfully) to have it temporarily arrested. Now, the campaign they have pushed has created an environment in which political enemies can call for the Press to be jailed for six full years, as well be barred from the UN compound.

  In fact, Reuters' Charbonneau sent a stealth complaint to the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, copied to Pioli, Voice of America's Besheer and AFP's Witcher, click here to view.

  Al-Arabiya is funded and controlled by Saudi Arabia, so its increasing involvement in this anti free Press campaign is perhaps not surprising. But that Voice of America, using US taxpayer dollars, would be one of five leaders of an anti Press campaign triggering such a threat is, we hear, becoming a matter of concern to some on Capitol Hill.

  Matthew Winkler of Bloomberg News has yet to respond to either the submitted questions on the propriety of his UN bureau chief's involvement, nor to disassociate Bloomberg from this anti press freedom climate.

  As noted and now updated, there has been no response to now three rounds of e-mails to Reuters "Ethics & Training" chief Greg McCune, Top News Editor Walden Siew, deputy editor Paul Ingrassia and big cheese Stephen J. Adler.

  The Reuters response on this has been Reuters UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau saying on June 1, before he voted to investigate Inner City Press and sent out the selective minutes, "you are a bad person."

   Since the origin of these disputes, UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli has repeatedly demanded that Inner City Press remove from the Internet its factual report that Pioli accepted money for rent from Kohona. Pioli in an angry telephone call threatened to have Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, an ejection now positively viewed by pro government media in Sri Lanka.

T his calls into question not only the negligent management of Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, Al-Arabiya and Voice of America, but also WHO is the source of the threats cited in the pro Sri Lanka government Sunday Observer.

   If the Pioli proposed UNCA Board of Examination goes forward even now -- one would think it would be called off -- it must investigate all of UNCA officials' communications with Palitha Kohona, Shavendra Silva and other alleged war criminals. 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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