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As UN's Ban Celebrates Censors, Stories on Nepotism, Sri Lanka & Union Busting Banned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 4, updated -- While the UN Security Council heard behind closed doors Wednesday about a UN staff member killed Tuesday in Syria, one story above Secretary General Ban Ki-moon raised a toast to the UN Censorship Alliance.

   This group, formally known as the United Nations Correspondents Association, has shown itself willing to lobby the UN to try to get the investigative Press thrown out. Wednesday it cravenly gave one of its three prizes to an in-house UN Photo taker who works for Ban Ki-moon.

  What kind of "correspondents' association" is this? Ban's kind. 


2d update:
Update: We note that photographer Cia Pak organized the competition, using the UNCA space because it's there [or, because the UN gives UNCA that space, rather than calling it for example the "UN Journalists' Club" and letting other use it.] Pak says he sent out the invitation to apply worldwide, for any UN related photographs. He indicates that in future years the volunteer judges will not vote on photos by those whom they supervise. Vaya con Dios.

   After opening a South Korea-funded UN Accessibility Center in the UN basement -- click here for Inner City Press' tweeted photo -- and before meeting Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, Ban went to the large clubhouse his UN gives to the Censorship Alliance

   Ban gave a speech, partially put online, which acted as if "all the correspondents accredited at the UN" are members of UNCA. They are not.  And while UNCA "leaders" purport to speak for all correspondents, they should not.

  Ban's UN has a strange approach: it openly allowed its audio visual contractor Team People to break the existing union. Only now are the jobs becoming re-unionized, and only because the union sued. Despite ILO principles, this UN is a place of union busting.

   On December 4, Ban put off his already long-delayed press conference until December 16, and cited the third prize photograph of "the urgent focus of a reporter's raised pen." That blue pen is that of this reporter, raised persistently because UN bureaucrats automatically give the first question to the Censorship Alliance.

  After having seen UNCA "leaders" try to expel after attempts to censor were unsuccessful, Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access.

  Now when UNCA insists on offering thanks to speakers in its name for all reporters, FUNCA then offers a more nuanced, forward looking thanks - please answer more questions. When UNCA didn't say its name, Inner City Press merely said it was sure the journalists present were grateful for the briefing. That's how it should be.

 Any "correspondents' association" worthy of the name should as a matter of principle not lobby to get investigative media thrown out. But this UNCA has done just that, and has even spied for the UN.

 Some background: how does censorship work at the UN? Yesterday Inner City Press asked the UN spokesperson about Ban's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee being named country representative to Kenya of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

  The spokesperson did not answer that, instead telling Inner City Press, "I think you know how to reach UNFPA." Video here, from Minute 6:30. The questions Inner City Press submitted are below, along with UNFPA's answer confirming their hiring of Ban Ki-moon's son in law.

  When Inner City Press reported on complaints of nepotism in the hiring of Ban's son in law Chatterjee, and another publication picked up and credited Inner City Press' reporting, Chatterjee contacted that publication and demanded that its story be taken off the Internet, which happened.

  Chatterjee asked the publication's reporter to tell Inner City Press to also remove from the Internet its story. Inner City Press refused.

  This is too widespread in the UN system. After Inner City Press reported as context for the screening in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium of a Sri Lanka government film denying it committed war crimes that the president of the United Nations Correspondents Association had previously rented a Manhattan apartment to Sri Lanka's Ambassador, other threats began.

  Inner City Press was told to take its report off the Internet. Instead, Inner City Press offered to publish any response; none was ever provided. Instead, the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association, now known as the UN's Censorship Alliance, began a kangaroo court proceeding seeking to expel Inner City Press.

  In the midst of this, in a meeting of the UNCA Executive Committee (to which Inner City Press had been elected, before now having quit the organization and co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access to actually advocate for rather than undermine freedom of the press), Inner City Press was quizzed about its sources. As it always does and will do, Inner City Press refused to disclose its sources.

When the UNCA proceeding against Inner City Press was reported in Sri Lanka (and supposedly internal UNCA documents from it were immediately leaked to the UN by UNCA's first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, click here for that), death threats began to arrive from extremist supporters of Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government. The UNCA Executive Committee's response was that this was not its problem.

  This all culminated in UNCA Executive Committee members from Voice of America and Reuters urging the UN to throw Inner City Press out of the UN.

   Since VOA is a US government agency, Inner City Press continuing its reporting has been able to use the US Freedom of Information Act to obtain hundreds of pages of documents, including VOA's request that Inner City Press' accreditation be "reviewed," and its statement that UNCA spoke with the UN about throwing Inner City Press out of the UN and that Reuters' Charbonneau and Agence France Presse's Tim Witcher supported its request.

So this is the UN's Censorship Alliance, UNCA. In 2013, UNCA "leaders" responded to the formation of the new Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info by creating multiple imposter Twitter accounts of FUNCA, then of Inner City Press itself, as exposed by MediaBistro.

  That outside exposure slowed it, temporarily; nothing had been done by current and apparently future UNCA president Pamela Falk of CBS, who was directly told on the record about the UNCA trolling ultimately attributable to her under command responsibility. Audio here and here; here for the statement "the fundamental problem is your website" from the Reuters first vice president of the UN Censorship Alliance.

  They continued with their trolling campaign as recently as November 27, the day before Thanksgiving.

  And today in the clubhouse the UN gives to what has become its Censorship Alliance, Ban Ki-moon was the invited guest to toast an UNCA photo competition in which UN Photo was given one of the prizes, second place, for a shot of what Ban called "the bustle of an intense meeting," a shot independent journalists are not allowed to take, only Ban's own photographers.

  FUNCA has previously noted that just as journalists in the US White House complain when in-house administration photographers are given exclusive access banning the independent press, the UN too should stop this. But UNCA is giving this award.

  What's next, when the UN Censorship Alliance again invites Ban later this month and charges guests $250 a plate -- an award to UN News Centre or Ban's speech writers, from the UN's Censorship Alliance? Falk is running unopposed to continue this, along with a Reuters replacement, other censors, indicters and kangaroo court "judges." There have been no reforms at all this the above described. This is how censorship at the UN works.

  Here are the questions Inner City Press has put to the two top spokespeople at UNFPA:

This is a request for UNFPA to confirm or deny that Siddhartha Chatterjee has been selected "as the new head of the United Nations Population Fund in Kenya."

If so, please confirm or deny that the government of Kenya has "delayed accept[ing] the appointment" and describe how that acceptance process works, what has happened so far and where it stands.

Also, please describe in detail the recruitment and selection process for the position and how the son in law of the UN Secretary General was selected, and please comment on those who see the potential for nepotism or favoritism.

We have received the following from UNFPA, which we publish in full:

Subject: Re: Press questions about UNFPA, Siddhartha Chatterjee and Kenya, on deadline, thanks
From: Omar Gharzeddine [at] unfpa.org
Date: Wed, Dec 4, 2013
To: Matthew.Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com
Cc: kibel [at] unfpa.org, FUNCA [at[ funca.info

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you for your message.

Mr. Siddhart Chatterjee was indeed selected to be the UNFPAs incoming Kenya Representative.

This selection was conducted following established recruitment policies and procedures. Mr. Chatterjee was the candidate who emerged as the most suitable for the position, based on his qualifications and vast experience in his own country, within the United Nations -- which he first joined in 1997 -- and with other reputable international organizations.

UNFPA has completed its recruitment. Acceptance of such appointments is the preserve of the Kenyan Government, which is working on the clearance process.

As mentioned above, the recruitment followed established policies and procedures. That included advertising the post online and in international publications, such as the Economist. Working with an independent external head-hunting agency, several candidates were then interviewed by a panel, which recommended the most suitable candidate for the job.

Best regards.

Omar Gharzeddine

UNFPA

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