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As Kohona Like UNCA Demands Apology, "Casa Pioli" On Market Against Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- While Sri Lankan government media uses a proceeding at the UN against Inner City Press as putting war crimes in the past, on June 8 in the UN's North Lawn building Inner City Press asked Sri Lankan Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona about two articles and one forthcoming.

  Kohona's answer was that the dogs would be called off "if you issue a public apology to me."

  But Inner City Press' reporting that Kohona was involved in luring Tamil surrenderees to their deaths by summary execution is based on facts, including the recollection of the since deceased Marie Colvin.

  That Kohona paid money as rent to Giampaolo Pioli, the President of the UN Correspondents Association which has now "suspended" Inner City Press and began a "Board of Examination" with an eye toward total expulsion, has subsequently been admitted by Pioli himself.

   So it is striking that the demands of Kohona and Pioli are identical: a public apology, or else attacks that lead to threatening phone calls from Sinhalese extremists will continue.

  Kohona may view this as just part of his job for the Rajapaksa government, like getting Pioli to let Sri Lanka screen inside the UN its video responding to UK Channel 4's documentary "Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" -- which was NOT shown in "Pioli's Playhouse" or elsewhere in the UN, due to a celebration for Ban Ki-moon.

 But for the president of a journalists' association to fan anti press freedom flames in order to extract a blanket apology for legitimate reporting on a conflict of interest is more surprising, and troubling.

   And increasingly the usually low (low) profile Pioli is being noticed. Ambassadors who had assumed that the "UNCA versus Inner City Press fight" was, as one of them put it early last week, "Reuters, AFP and Bloomberg as big media fighting a harder working blogger," now marvel at Pioli's deeds, and role.

  This being the UN, some see opportunity in all this, and are starting to inquire into how to pay for a place in what they call Casa Pioli.

  Apparently, said one at a reception Friday night, if you pay rent to Pioli, he will use his position in UNCA to attack journalists who question your country.

   France, for example, has had some success in Pioli's UNCA, most directly through Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse, which derives over 40% of its income from "subscriptions" to AFP by government offices.

When the French Mission to the UN was shamed by Inner City Press' report that the Mission was unaware that the Sarkozy Administration had switched its candidate to head UN Peacekeeping from Jerome Bonnafont to Herve Ladsous, they got Witcher of AFP, through Pioli's UNCA, to spend weeks concocting a statement denouncing press use of what other journalists say.

  (AFP was not the source, but this didn't matter. For the record, Witcher says he didn't "draft" the statement, but rather wanted greater punishment such as the lawless "suspension" Pioli meted out on June 8.)

So who wants to pay for space in Casa Pioli? 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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