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As DRC Jams Radio Okapi, UN's Weak Position, Takedowns of Hege & M23

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- When the Congolese authorities silenced Radio Okapi, an affiliate of the UN Peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, the UN was put into a contradictory position -- one into which the UN of late has put itself.

  MONUSCO is explicitly in support of the Congolese Army, the FADRC. Even when FARDC regiments committed mass rape in Minova in late November, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Herve Ladsous has refused to say which regiments were there, or to commit to make this information public in the future.

  With the UN so clearly on the side of the Congolese authorities, what can they credibly say when these same authorities crack down on freedom of the press, even of the UN's own media?

 MONUSCO chief Roger Meece, who had his deputy Moustapha Soumare answer press questions via video link to UN Headquarters last week rather than doing so himself, has complained, but without addressing the reasons: broadcast of an interview with the M23 rebel leader.

  (Meece's press release does not appear to be on MONUSCO's web site - this page has nothing since August - but was emailed to Inner City Press after an inquiry with the UN Spokesperson's office, appreciated.)

   Because Meece's press release won't mention the reason, he is reduced to calling the decision "puzzling" -- so the complaint is, in a sense, censored. Nothing puzzling about it - the UN engages in or allows censorship, so Congo says why can't we?

  Notably, DPKO chief Ladsous has opposed free inquiry in at least three UN televised press conferences and stakeouts, saying he refuses to take questions from the Press due to coverage he calls "insulting."

  This appears to refer to questions about the relations of his currents positiions with work he did for the French government, including as its Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the Rwanda genocide.

  Beginning on late May, emboldened by other anti-Press moves in the UN, Ladsous began refusing to answer or even take questions, including about the rapes in Minova, abuses of Pinga and inaction in Goma.

  So how can Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations credibly stand for freedom of the press, as Ladsous blithely claimed at a November 30 "DPKO Storytelling" events by the UN?  How will Meece and the UN follow up on his complaint?

    Even the UN Group of Experts on DRC has a strange relation to freedom of the press or social media. The most recent report by the Steve Hege-led group states, without providing support, that a website -- not this one -- which negatively covered the group is simply part of a "Government of Rwanda" campaign.

  Inner City Press has asked numerous questions of the UN about Hege and how he was selected, including whether this 2009 writings dismissing the threat posed by the FDLR militia were vetted, all without answer.

   Absent responses, one is left to surmise from the recent report that Hege and his Group must be pleased that Facebook took down the page of the M23 group.

   Congolese nationalists were and are free to make such requests: but on what basis did Facebook censor the page, especially after the heads of state in Kampala said that M23's legimate grievances must be listened to? The take-down to some seems inconsistent with the Kampala decision.

   Also taken down, but voluntarily, was Hege's 2009 writing about the FDLR. The recent Hege report alludes to the writing, but does not explain its removal. And so it goes with this UN. Again, how will Meece and the UN follow up on his complaint? Watch this site.

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