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As Feltman Jogs Into US Mission, Need for UN FOIA, & Schedules Online

By Matthew Russell Lee, View

UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- The UN claims to be transparent, but it has no Freedom of Information law. So its steps toward transparency are small and random.

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has a "public" schedule, but for example his recent encounter with Sudan's Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, was not disclosed.

 When Inner City Press asked about it, it was called a mere handshake. But Sudan issued a read-out of four issues covered.

  Ban's new Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson also has a public online schedule. But recently Inner City Press was told that a visiting foreign minister had met with Eliasson -- and it never appeared on his schedule.

  Wednesday morning Inner City Press happened to see Ban's new chief of the Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, jogging into the US Mission to the UN on 45th Street. It seemed noteworthy, since most missions come to meet Feltman in his UN office.

  When Inner City Press asked, it was informally told that Feltman goes out to meet with other missions beyond the US, his native country whose State Department he served until earlier this year. Inner City Press asked, which ones? But that, seemingly as a matter of policy, is not public.

  Under Eliasson, the UN DSG position has a political component, which Inner City Press compared to that of Feltman. Why does one make his schedule public, and the other not? Why isn't the schedule of top UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, resistant to Press questions, put online?

  Both Under Secretaries General, we have noted, made themselves present at a sculpture exhibition opening Tuesday night at the UN, along with Ban Ki-moon and ambassadors including that of North Korea.

  Ban, Feltman, Ladsous and other USGs will retreat to Torino this weekend. Increased transparency should be in their agenda.

  Inner City Press asked on Wednesday, why doesn't Feltman put his schedule online, at least as DSG Eliasson does? We need to keep some secrets was the affable but unsatisfactory answer. Secrets on behalf of whom?

  It is time for a UN Freedom of Information Act, which Inner City Press has long asked for. In the interim, Feltman should consider putting his schedule online. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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