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UNCA Stokes Anti Press Flames, Tries to Use Them to Censor on Sri Lanka, Ban Ki-moon Minders

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 14, updated -- Big media members of the UN Correspondents Association stirred up Sri Lankan extremists' threats against Inner City Press, then repeatedly said they didn't care and weren't responsible.

  Today, after an organization chaired by Kofi Annan's former chief of communications Edward Mortimer criticized UNCA for putting Inner City Press at risk, ten UNCA members voted to proceed against Inner City Press.

   They offered a "confidential" statement that they bear no responsibility for the threats they have stoked, calling such a claim false and damaging -- to them.

  On June 11, Reuters' UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau who has participated in uncredited use of Inner City Press exclusive stories told Inner City Press, regarding threats copied to the UN that its reporter should "swim like a brick," that he should just "contact the New York Police Department."

  Then Charbonneau urged continuation of the UNCA "Board of Examination" procedure which gave rise to and fueled the cycle of threats.

On June 12, Reuters' Charbonneau's "NYPD" suggestion was repeated word for word by his former Reuters colleague, now Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, Martin Nesirky: contact NYPD. We wash our hands?

  Denis Fitzgerarld of Saudi Press Agency, one of the Board of Examination members chosen by UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli, whose renting of his apartment to Sri Lanka's UN Ambassador Palitha Kohona and then screening his war crimes denial film along with alleged war criminal (and Ban Ki-moon adviser) general Shavendra Silva gave rise to this witch hunt, demanded of Inner City Press on June 11, "Who funds you?" [See update below.]

  The false allegation that, because Inner City Press has reported on the lack of accountability for the killing of 40,000 civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009, it must be funded by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has been spread by senior advisers to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

On June 11, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, what is the UN's response to a sample threat sent to Inner City Press on June 9, copied to the UN's official in Washington Marie Okabe and two others in the UN, that this reporter should "swim like a brick" -- does the UN acknowledge any role in the creation of this climate, given that Ban advisers are known to have spread rumors Inner City Press is funded by the LTTE, just because Inner City Press questions make Ban look bad?

  Nesirky said he was not aware of the threat copied to Okabe, that it wasn't sent to him. Nor has he answered since, while now the UNCA Executive Committee belatedly seeks to distance itself from and sweep under the carpet the threats, and their and the UN's roles.

  In fact, on June 14 Ban Ki-moon's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit wrote to Inner City Press that signing in Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman to the Security Council stakeout on June 12, where she ultimately spoke to the Press and others about Yemen, Syria and the Arab Spring, was "misconduct" by Inner City Press, a trigger to expulsion from the UN.

   Bloomberg News' Flavia Krause-Jackson, when shown attacks on Inner City Press in Sri Lankan government media quoting the vague letter of indictment that she had signed said, "We are not responsible for this."

  UNCA's Third Vice President, referring to a Sri Lankan web site portraying Inner City Press' reporting with a "Goebbels" sign on said, "I don't care about this."

  Another UNCA Executive Committee member, from a media which has in the past used Inner City Press' exclusive reporting, said that it was not necessary for UNCA to distance itself from the threats, since "you know how the Sri Lankan media is."

  Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia, who circulated an e-mail accusing Inner City Press of "intimidation and personal threats" for a request to cease the Board of Examination process, said that before agreeing to distance UNCA from the threats he wanted an apology about a tweet.

  At the June 11 UNCA meeting on the threats, or rather on Inner City Press have dared write to its media attackers' editors, an attendee invited by Pioli called Inner City Press' the journalism of the "poubelle" - the garbage can.

Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse had, after seeing the threats but not agreeing to distance UNCA from then, demanded of Inner City Press, How fast can you draft an apology, wanting his name in it.

  Thursday Witcher lurked around the Security Council stakeout without asking any questions as Inner City Press did, of Sudan and South Sudan, while the UNCA Executive Committee waited upstairs to vote to proceed against Inner City Press.

  Witcher's name WAS among the copy list of a complaint against Inner City Press sent by Reuters' Charbonneau to the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU), which now on June 14 has charged Inner City Press with "misconduct" for signing in a Nobel Prize winner.

  Ban Ki-moon's MALU three times said it would grant Inner City Press re-accreditation on June 4 -- and then refused to do so.

  After letters raising questions to the editors of Reuters, Bloomberg, Voice of America, AFP and to Pioli's near-unreachable editors in Italy, suddenly Pioli at 5 pm on June 11 asked Inner City Press to "show him the threats."

But Inner City Press already had, starting June 3. These crocodile tears come too late. You can't whip up a witch hunt and anti press freedom climate, try to use it to your advantage, then distance yourself at the last minute.

   Pioli since September 2011 has been demanding the removal from the Internet of all Inner City Press reporting about him accepting rent money from Palitha Kohona and then agreeing to screen inside the UN Kohona's government's propaganda film "Lies Agreed To" without asking Inner City Press, which was elected to UNCA's Executive Committee.

  Beyond Inner City Press' reporting, consider this SLC summary.

  Three times Pioli was shown threats against Inner City Press which resulted from his vendetta.

Pioli's response was that no statement distancing UNCA from them would issue until "the other" -- this demand for censorship, then an apology and Inner City Press' resignation from "his" Executive Committee -- was dealt with.

  In a legal view, this was extortion, and puts any face-saving statement issued in its proper light: insincere and too little, too late.

In fact, at 2 pm on June 11, Pioli called a meeting at which he berated Inner City Press for having belatedly lodged a complaint with his editors in Italy about Pioli's role in the threats.

  Three hours later, Pioli suddenly wanted to "know more" about the threats, reportedly to issue some face-saving statement. What happened between 2 and 5 pm?

What happened AT the 2 pm meeting was the seeming resignation of two of the Pioli-designated members of the "Board of Examination" investigating Inner City Press.

  Still, Bill Reilly remains the chairman of the Board of Examination, an employee paid at the pleasure of a state media member of UNCA's Executive Committee who has already twice voted against Inner City Press, telling it to "respect authority."

   Another of the UNCA "Board of Examination" members on June 11 said, with feeling but without irony, I am a twenty year friend of Pioli, that's why he chose me for the Board.

Denis Fitzgerald, employed by the Saudi News Agency, said he was resigning: but in the minutes sent out later, he somehow stopped short of resigning. At the June 11 meeting he said, "I know what you do, and it's not fair." He's free to think that, but he cannot remain on the Board: he's already groaned when Inner City Press raised the issue of Sri Lanka, critiqued one of Inner City Press' headlines, and demanded, "Who funds you?"

 Fitzgerald spent June 13 disputing what he had said, asking for more and more details about his own obvious lack of impartiality.

[Update: at Fitzgerald's request, we hereby publish his argument that "My questions about accountability for the ICP blog, its editor and funding are valid questions - if someone believes they are misrepresented or portrayed unfairly and inaccurately on the ICP blog, how can they seek redress?"

Answer: Inner City Press presents what is submitted in writing. By contrast, Reuters never published any part of what Inner City Press submitted on May 21 about the wire service's unauthorized uncredited use of Inner City Press' March 28 exclusive that Jeffrey Feltman would head UN DPA. And the contact e-mail on Saudi Press Agency does not work. We may have more on this.]

  At the end of the 2 pm June 11 meeting, Margaret Besheer of Voice of America said, "write to my editors again, they get a laugh out of it," after Inner City Press asked if VOA should spend US taxpayer dollars to try to expel from the UN a US journalist who covers corruption. Besheer has previously admonished Inner City Press to write about the UN "more positively." Talk about going native.

  Besheer and Pioli were also sent copies of Charbonneau's complaint to MALU against Inner City Press, which was not sent a copy.

It has emerged that beyond renting his apartment to those he purportedly objectively covers, Piolo also in violation of basic journalistic ethics has made campaign contributions to politicians he covers.

Something has gone terribly wrong with the UNCA Executive Committee under Pioli's watch, and their simultaneous June 14 move to proceed in these conditions against Inner City Press, and to offer some "confidential" distancing of UNCA from the Sri Lankan extremist threats against Inner City Press, is not accepted, or acceptable. Watch this site.

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

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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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