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UNCA Suspends Its Constitution, Fetes Schwarzenegger, Gives Prizes for Pay

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 14 -- At the UN in 2012, alongside what's called the Arab Spring of democratization, the UN trend has been quite the opposite.

  The head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous has taken to openly not answering questions from Press whose critical coverage he doesn't like.

  The so-called UN Correspondents Association executive committee, far from opposing this content-based stonewalling, piled on and itself sought censorship and expulsion

  This began after Press articles about Ladsous and the conflicted giving of space in the UN to General Shavenda Silva of the Sri Lankan Army, depicted in the UN's own report engaged in war crimes.

   Now on December 14, another new low: the UNCA Executive Committee has unilaterally waved its own stated Constitution, which says they must hold elections by December 15 and leave office by January 1.

   The term has been extended -- in the style of Ben Ali or Mubarak, some might say.

    Inner City Press asked for a response, including from the President of UNCA who was extending his own term:

"as you must know, this violates the UNCA Constitution: Article 3, Section 3 and would be impermissible. Even to try to override the Constitution would require General Membership action.  You might try to amend the Constitution -- but before December 31? This requires a response, as was not given to the below, for the record."

   But no response came, as before to a request for UNCA Executive Committee comment on documents showing the involvement of at least three of its members, from Voice of America, Reuters and AFP, in seeking to get the UN to "review" the accreditation of Inner City Press, due to articles it published.

   (These same three on November 27 left a Security Council stakeout where Ladsous refused to answer the Press about DPKO's action on rape in the Congo, in order to be privately "briefed" by Ladsous and his spokesman in the hallway, video here).

   And so at the December 14 noon briefing, after asking about the Congo, the failed telecommunications talks in Dubai, and elections in Egypt, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the unilateral suspension of the constitution of UNCA. Video here from Minute 10:40.

  The basis of the question is that the UN openly "partners" with UNCA, for example on the UN Media Access Guidelines, violation of which can result in expulsion.

   Since the UN has in the past refused to answer if journalists have a right to be informed of complaints failed against them -- apparently not -- Inner City Press prefaced its question to Nesirky by summarizing some of the ways in which the UN grants special status to UNCA, as to a company union:

   The UN grants UNCA the first question at press conferences, consults with it and no one else about space of correspondent -- under UNCA's watch under the Capital Master Plan, reduced by 40% -- gives out passes to cover parts of the General Debate only through UNCA and even, which seemed to bother Nesirky, announced UNCA executive committee meetings over the UN's loudspeaker or "squawk" system.

   Nesirky retorted that the announcements are only for convenience, and said that he "indulges" and tries to answer Inner City Press' questions.

   As to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Inner City Press has three times asked what reforms it has implemented after it brought cholera into Haiti to make sure it doesn't happen again.

   Again on Friday, Nesirky said he had no answer -- while moments later a senior peacekeeping official, not Herve Ladsous, did give Inner City Press an answer. So there was an answer: why didn't DPKO give it? Inner City Press before 2 pm on Friday asked Nesirky four more questions.

    At Friday's noon briefing, Nesirky refused to answer about the suspension of the voting and leaving office provisions of the UNCA constitution. Video here from Minute 10:40.

   And so Inner City Press informed him that the beta Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, has formally petitioned the Department of Public Information on the topics of undue favoritism for its company union, and the need to share first questions, pooling arrangements, and the like.

   (Earlier on Friday, German Ambassador Peter Wittig was thanked on behalf of FUNCA, then by the late-arriving, Constitution-suspending president of UNCA. Video here, from Minute 25.)

   Now DPI and the UN should have to opine on the suspension of the Constitution of its "partner."

   Nesirky said, if you were asking about the UN Charter, I might answer. Inner City Press pointed out the UN logo on UNCA's "Directory" and Constitution and Nesirky scoffed. But when a company union "goes rogue," the company must answer, no?

   But having refused to answer, look for Nesirky to nevertheless on December 19 give the first question directed to Ban Ki-moon to the aforesaid UNCA.

  Later that day, the company union which suspended its constitution after a year of attempted censorship will honor, who else, Arnold Schwarzenegger, at a $250 a plate dinner.

    It will give awards to members of its own executive committee, and to media organizations which have paid for full page advertisements. Conflicts of interest? What conflicts of interest? UNCA has no rules. Constitution? What Constitution? Watch this site.

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