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Amid ICP Scoops, Big Media UNCA Kangaroo Court Shrinks, Asks Censorship

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16 -- Reporting on any beat like the UN can be competitive. But there have to be bounds: large competitors should be collude to seek to expel and deny access to smaller, scrappier media.

  But at the UN, big media representatives on the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee -- including from Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, Voice of America and Al Arabiya -- led by Giampaolo Pioli of Italy's Poligrafici Editoriale Group, have set up a five member Board of Examination to investigate and seek to expel the smaller Inner City Press.

  On the afternoon of June 15, a second of the five members resigned, explicitly because he tried but could not see any mediated solution. On June 14, Pioli used UNCA's e-mail list serve to circulate including quickly to UN diplomats a letter denouncing Inner City Press (without letting it reply), spinning the first resignation. And now?

  Pioli is demanding, after Inner City Press reporting that he rented his apartment to Palitha Kohona and later granted Kohona's request to screen in the UN a war crimes denial film by his Sri Lankan government, that Inner City Press issue a blanket apology and resign.

Most troubling, Pioli's proposed solution involves him dictating what Inner City Press writes and publishes about in the future. Pioli has proposed, orally and now in writing, that Inner City Press "guarantee that [any] future coverage of the UN" not even mention "other UN correspondents" - including, of course, him.

  On June 15, Inner City Press obtained and exclusively published a UN Secretariat memo to the members of the Security Council saying that the UN mission in Syria would "limit mobile activities."

  Because both have this year been among those making uncredited use of Inner City Press exclusive, Inner City Press sent notice of its scoop, before 11 pm, to the highest levels of Reuters and Bloomberg News.

  Reuters UN correspondent Louis Charbonneau has told Inner City Press that he has not credited Inner City Press for the last year, including in his role in Reuters May 21 re-reporting of Inner City Press' March 28 scoop that Jeffrey Feltman would come to head the UN Department of Political Affairs.

  Bloomberg's UN correspondent Flavia Krause-Jackson has repeatedly said that even if Inner City Press clearly publishes a story first, then asks about it, Bloomberg can use any answer to Inner City Press' question as if it were it own, without credit.

 (Ironically, Charbonneau and Krause-Jackson, along with AFP's Tim Witcher and Pioli's hand-picked chairman William M. Reilly with obvious conflicts of interest are among the people for whom a blanket apology from Inner City Press is demanded in Pioli's proposal.)

  So Inner City Press noticed Bloomberg's Matthew Winkler, and Reuters Stephen J. Adler plus three, before 11 pm on June 15.

  After Inner City Press at 6 pm on June 16 asked the spokesmen for Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan -- both formerly from Reuters -- to comment on the eight hour old scoop, their response was to have UNSMIS General Robert Mood belatedly issue a statement with the contents of the notice to the Security Council that Inner City Press had already reported and published.

  Both Bloomberg and Reuters reported Mood's statement with no background or credit, as did Voice of America, first by UN correspondent Margaret Besheer then by VOA "blog." We'll have more on this.

   It is UN Correspondent Association president Pioli and his demands amid all this that are causing the most trouble, including now simultaneous admonishments and reneging on renewing Inner City Press' accreditation by Ban Ki-moon's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit.

Forget for a moment Pioli renting his apartment to a person he ostensibly covers objectively, then not recusing himself from and irregularly granting this person's request to screen inside the UN a war crimes denial film.

   Consider, as Inner City Press reported on and documented last weekend, Pioli's public campaign contributions of at least $950 in the last election cycle to a politician whom Pioli is covering this year. By any standard, at least in the United States if not at Pioli's Poligrafici Editoriale Group, Quotidiano Nazionale, La Nazione, Il Resto de Carlino and Il Giorno, this is unethical.

   And yet, despite all this, it is Inner City Press that is under fire, for reporting facts, for reporting faster than the wire services, and for example for bringing into the UN a Nobel Peace Prize winner like Yemen's Tawakkol Karman rather than, like Pioli's UNCA, an alleged war criminal like Sri Lanka general Shavendra Silva, now an adviser to Ban Ki-moon. Only at the UN - watch this site.

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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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