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At UN, Staff Complain of Malcorra Banning Speaking with Member States

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 16 -- While the UN of late has claimed to trump its failures such as in Sri Lanka with a burst of transparency, behind the scene it is ordering its staff members not to talk with member states, much less the media.

   Inner City Press has received multiple copies of and complaints about an October 22, 2012 letter from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chef de cabinet Susana Malcorra to staff, stating

"with reference to your statement that you will bring certain internal issues to the attention of Member States, I would draw your attention to staff regulation 1.2 (i) and staff rule 1.2 (i), which address relevant obligations which apply to all staff members."

  Staff took -- not twisted -- this as a threat that they could not raise concerns the the member states which ultimately "own" the United Nations.

  Would such silencing extend as far as to killings staff witnessed in the field, but higher-ups in the UN did not want to report, as the recent Sri Lanka report, especially as unredacted, reflects?

  Inner City Press has obtained, and is publishing, staff's response to Ms. Malcorra "threat," here. The staff also reference a request for investigation that they have filed, the first two pages of which Inner City Press is exclusively putting online here.

  In fairness, Ms. Malcorra is hardworking administrator, and defender of the Ban Ki-moon administration. But this can go too far. In the course of supposedly championing the report into the UN's failures in Sri Lanka, Malcorra on November 15 when asked by the Press about the redactions to the Sri Lanka report said

"The Secretary-General felt, and I fully share his view, that there was nothing that will change the transparency to show the report if we took out those aspects that have a clear relation to documents of internal use that were fully available to the Panel, which only indicate how open and available every single person and every single document was, but didn’t necessarily add any value, but also put the Organization at risk by sharing publicly in such a short term internal documents."

But the redactions include blacking out not only then USG John Holmes urging that the term "war crimes" not be used, but also Ban Ki-moon's own quote that "Government should be given the political space to develop a domestic mechanism" of accountability.

   It seems strange to argue that Ban blacked out his own comments in order to not chill his own future deliberation.

   When Inner City Press questioned this redaction, even under the rationale Ms. Malcorra has presented, she responded, "So why do you always twist things in a manner that doesn’t recognize the huge, huge attempt to make sure that all the available information was ready to be reviewed by the panel, and you just twist that in a manner that only makes the point that we are trying to protect ourselves. It’s just really something that disturbs me profoundly."

   Asking why information is being withheld, or staff is being told not to speak to member states, is a journalist's job. It can be done without rancor on either side. Watch this site.

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