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Minutes From Behind Reuters Firewall Censor ICP on France, Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 2, updated below -- In an unfolding comedy of corporate censorship errors, ten minutes after Inner City Press exposed Reuters' involvement in hosting the UN Correspondent Association minutes used to indict it, the link was changed away from Reuters.

  But the screen-shot remains, even as Reuters brass continues to be unreachable as the company leads a purge of independent media at the UN.

   Still there has been not response to the May 27 and June 2 notifications to Greg McCune of Reuters "Ethics & Training," Top News Editor Walden Siew, deputy editor Paul Ingrassia and big Reuters cheese Stephen J. Adler, on Twitter with a total of four tweets, none since August 2011. So much for New Media. Meanwhile Reuter's Charbonneau slavishing re-tweets other Reuters' reporters stories. Some hope he's paid overtime, and not ONLY for his strenuous efforts to expel the free Press.

  Now the the minutes taken out from behind Reuters' firewall, here are quick excerpts to show what is going on, even in these inaccurate summaries of three of four meetings (the fourth was withheld, to somehow serve the French mission to the UN, we'll have more on this) --

"30 September 2011: UNCA Executive Committee Meeting Minutes

Present: Giampaolo Pioli, Tim Witcher [AFP], Margaret Besheer [VOA], Julia Gronnevet, Lou Charbonneau [Reuters], Zhenqiu Gu [Xinhua], Matthew Lee, Barbara Plett [BBC], Talal Al-Haj [Al-Arabiya]

Massood Haider, Marcelle Hopkins [Al Jazeera] & Tala Dowlatshahi were absent but gave their proxies to Giampaolo

Agenda: “Inner City Press targeting UNCA members”

Giampaolo complained about an article written by Matthew, in which HE ALLEGED THAT Matthew criticized Giampaolo for scheduling the screening of Sri Lanka’s film on the civil war without first consulting the UNCA board by email and noted that Giampaolo had at one time been the landlord of the Sri Lankan ambassador

Giampaolo said linking the two implied that he had organized the screening because of this relationship, when in fact he’d organized it b/c he’s the UNCA president. He charged Matthew with “defamation”. He also said Matthew was abusing his UN credentials by attacking colleagues on his blog, and demanded an apology. During the meeting some other committee members agreed that Matthew was abusing his privileges as an accredited journalist by attacking fellow members of the press.

Giampaolo said that he had verbally informed several committee members, including Matthew, of his intention to allow the Sri Lankan film to be screened. Lou said he had been informed beforehand and had agreed that the film should be shown. Matthew said he had raised his objections with Lou, who confirmed that but said he had told Matthew that in his opinion there was no problem with Giampaolo’s decision and the Sri Lankan film should be screened."

   So, for this first installment -- Reuters' Charbonneau saw no problem with Sri Lanka government propaganda denying war crimes being screened inside the UN by UNCA with the involvement of a fellow official who had a past financial relationship with Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN. Who has lost his way? The UNCA crafted minutes continue:

"Matthew said there was an apparent conflict of interest and that a person who’d had a financial relationship with the Sri Lankan ambassador should not be making the decision on his own about whether to screen the film. This was especially so, he said, since UNCA did not screen the Channel 4 film, which told the other side of the story. He noted that a newspaper in Sri Lanka had interpreted the matter as a victory for the government. In broader terms, he very strongly objected to what he said was UNCA’s criticism of his blogs and its decision to question him about them.

Regarding the screening of the Sri Lankan film, Lou said UNCA had been prepared to show the Channel 4 film, but the timing conflicted with the SG’s re-election, so the film’s makers decided to show it in a venue across the street. He said it was a fair point that UNCA did need to establish a formal process for making decisions about pressers. Matthew accepted that he should probably have sent an email making his objections clear to the whole UNCA board.

Lou acknowledged Matthew was raising the issue of possible conflicts of interest which UNCA could look at but, ALONG WITH TALAL AND GIAMPAOLO, said in his view the allegations against Giampaolo were unfounded and saw no conflict of interest. Others also told Matthew that WHAT THEY considered TO BE his public attack on Giampaolo WAS unfounded.

Tim also complained of stories that Matthew had written about AFP and about Tim & Pierre Antoine, after the Inner City Press post mentioning the French mission & French media that Tim said got AFP into trouble. Matthew repeated emphatically that his source had not been AFP, and again expressed anger that he had not been allowed to attach his dissent to an UNCA statement about journalistic best practices, which, he said was against press freedom. Talal made the point that the UNCA Executive Committee has never issued dissenting opinions and an exception should not be made for Matthew.

Lou said that UNCA executive committee members were not trying to censor Matthew but were concerned that WHAT THEY CONSIDERED TO BE published attacks on Giampaolo, Tim and AFP"

   And so, to end this installment from UN-world, Reuters, AFP and others feel they can target a journalist for expulsion because they don't agree with this articles -- which, as noted, they steal from without giving credit. Only at the UN - and in these corporate media. To be continued: watch this site.

Update: minutes after publication of the above this came out in Sri Lanka, which we fully credit and link to:

Matthew Lee faces expulsion from UNCA

The United Nations is set to make history as the UN Correspondents' Association (UNCA) is contemplating a move to impeach and expel a reporter -- perhaps for the first time in living memory.

But what is interesting is that there is a Sri Lankan angle to the story which is reverberating throughout the Organisation. The journalist on trial is Matthew Russell Lee, a blogger, who has been ruthlessly and consistently attacking Sri Lanka on alleged war crimes charges.

Ironically, Lee is on trial not for his attacks on Sri Lanka but for accusing the UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli of "accepting rent money" -- a legitimate transaction -- when he was the landlord of a New York city apartment rented out to Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Ambassador Palitha Kohona about eight years ago when he was Chief of the UN Treaty Section.

According to Lee, Pioli expressed anger at the reporting because Lee accused the UNCA president of "arranging for Kohona to screen the government's genocide-rebuttal film 'Lies Agreed Upon" at the UN under UNCA auspices "without asking other UNCA executive board members about it and without the underlying Channel 4 film "Killing Fields" being screened at the UN."

Pioli admitted accepting rent from Kohona but denied the accusation he was biased in favour of Sri Lanka. And while Pioli demanded the article be removed from Lee's blog, Lee refused calling it censorship."

Lee is also accused of "unprofessional and unethical behaviour" -- a charge made by a Western news agency Bureau Chief with whom he is involved in a journalistic battle over non-attribution of a scoop which originated in Lee's blog. The UNCA executive committee voted 13 to 1 to set up a board of examination to probe the charges. The only dissenting vote came from Lee who is also in the ExCo.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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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