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UNCA Site Requires Password After Qs of Awards on Haiti to Bocelli, Turkish Censors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- When the giving of an award about Haiti to a musician by what's ostensibly a United Nations Correspondents Association comes under fire after UN peacekeepers fire on protesters, as happened here, what does the association do? Who does it? To whom does it give awards, and how?

 In the case of today's UN Correspondents Association, the response to such questions has been to block access to its Twitter feed by the questioner, in this case Inner City Press. Photo here.

 Now on December 16, the UNCA website, with information about if not explanation of the awards, suddenly requires a password. Photo here. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance, or an organization in decline, or both. This apparently is what happens when you try to censor, or when the censor in chief returns.

  Beyond the Italian tenor and the Turkish billionaire (presumably absent any explanation to the contrary chosen by UNCA's Italian president and Turkish first vice president), are UNCA's other awardees aware UNCA blocks access by the press?

  One awardee is an UNCA board member, so one would assume he knows. Another has indicated it's not worth the time to cover UNCA and its actions, even trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN or otherwise censoring.

 But how about Hanan Alkiswany, Al-ghad Daily (Jordan), Francesco Semprini, La Stampa, Alice Su, Freelance, Marina Aizen, Revista Viva, Clarín (Agentina), Soma Basu, Down to Earth Magazine (India) Amy Yee, Freelance and, with regard to Herve Ladsous, below, Tatiana Mossot, France 24? Are they aware of their awarder's censorship and blocking of the Press? What do they think of it? Four of the above have been made aware, by Twitter. Now the site is behind a wall. Watch this site.

   This is the association with which the UN partners, giving it a big clubhouse even as the UN threw the News Agency of Nigeria out of its work space, claiming it was in short supply.

The claim is that UNCA represents those who cover the UN; it's at the $100 (and more) UNCA ball Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will speak, though almost certainly not about the UN's responsibility for cholera in Haiti, and shooting at protesters there. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  Less than 100 correspondents of the thousands who cover the UN voted for its past and future president, Giampaolo Pioli - and that without competition, for his and the other top five spots.

   But now we ask in more detail: who controls the UNCA Twitter account with the right of censorship - just Pioli? The 15 members of the Executive Committee, or just the six officers listed below? The (less than) 100 voting members?

The six officers of UNCA, elected in each instance with less than 100 votes out of the thousands of journalists who cover the UN, consists of:

Giampaolo Pioli, Quotidiano Nazionale / La Nazione / Il Resto de Carlino / / El Giorno; Kahraman Haliscelik, TRT Turkish Radio & TV; Sylviane Zehil, L'Orient Le Jour; Ali Barada, An-Nahar / France 24; Bouchra Benyoussef, Maghreb Arab Press; and Seana Magee, Kyoto News Agency.

  The rest of the Executive Committee, who may have been involved -- we have been checking -- includes Reuters, Bloomberg, Al Arabiya, the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Italian news agency ANSA, with votes out of 105:

Nabil Abi Saab, Al Hurra (US Broadcasting Board of Governors) 71 of 105

Talal Al Haj, Al Arabiya 51 of 105

Emoke Debiak, DPA 58 of 105

Sherwin Bryce-Peace, SABC 68 of 105

Zhenqui Gu, Xinhua 57 of 105

Melissa Kent, CBC 66 of 105

Michele Nichols, Reuters 58 of 105

Valeria Robecco, ANSA 65 of 105

Sangwon Yoon, Bloomberg 53 of 105

 For now we ask: is this an Italian thing? Now that Giampaolo Pioli is returning to head UNCA, after his previous attempts to use UNCA to censor articles about himself, does that explain this new Twitter block? We'll have more on this.

 After UN peacekeepers fired tear gas and a pistol at Haitians demonstration for democracy on December 12, on December 13 Inner City Press wrote to four agents of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, slated to receive an UNCA humanitarian award about Haiti this week, to request comment on the shooting and on cholera.

  No response has been received. But on December 15, UNCA blocked Inner City Press from the Twitter account it had used to announce giving awards to Bocelli (about Haiti) and also now to a Turkish billionaire, the selection process for which has not been explained.

  This is the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  Not only is the UN's role in bringing cholera to Haiti being ignored -- after UN Peacekeepers under Herve Ladsous shot tear gas and pistols into crowds of protesters for democracy, Andrea Bocelli, his management Almud and his Andrea Bocelli Foundation have been asked for comment and have not provided any.

   If he's accepting a UN-related award, shouldn't he?

  The UN Censorship Alliance belated announced another awardee -- a for profit education magnate from Turkey whose firm Bahcesehir Ugur is majority owned by the Carlyle Group. The president of UNCA is Italian (Bocelli), and the vice president is Turkish (Enver Yucel) - is this any coincidence? The latter chimes in to note scholarships by Enver Yucel, saying these should be encouraged and not discouraged. We note this, as offered to the former - but dispute that association with the UN's Censorship Alliance is "encouraging."

The group, which has tried to get the investigative Press thrown out, has grandiosely (and hypocritically) issued statements on some other journalists jailed. Given its current officers, will it in this case? And if it doesn't, what does attending its grotesque ball really mean?

  After this question was posed, about arrest of journalists by Turkey and whether the "United Nations Correspondents Association" and its first vice president would stay silent, the response received involved defending the honor of the mysterious (or not so mysterious) selected billionaire, thusly:

"Having been very well known for his contributions to the cultural and educational life in Turkey and providing 25m USD of scholarship every year to the students in need, Enver Yücel was awarded with 'Outstanding Service Award' by The Turkish Grand National Assembly in 2008. He was also awarded with the 'Education Award' by the American Turkish Council in 2010. Mr. Yücel was accepted by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for his contributions to the alliance of civilizations."

  The proffered paragarph has been published in full. But where is the answer as how the Turkish billionaire and the Italian tenor were selected? And will this dubious UNCA, before its grotesque ball, issue a statement about censorship by Turkey?

  Posed otherwise if Federica Mogherini, until recently Italy's foreign minister, speaks out against these arrests of journalists in Turkey, will UNCA ostensibly under the leadership of Giampaolo Pioli do so? Or, as before, is the first vice president position the one to watch (out for)? Watch this site.

  On the same day, the sentencing of Barret Brown is scheduled, and the US government is fighting to keep all filings confidential from the press and public.

  When Ban Ki-moon was selected as UN Secretary General in 2006 it was an untransparent process, with secret ballots in the Security Council.  But at least there was competition. Now reportedly the top spot at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs may be given without competition.

  This trend at the UN under Ban, including for example UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, has been enabled and concealed by what has become the UN's Censorship Alliance, formally the United Nations Correspondents Association.

  On November 14 this organization in decline formally announced a slate of six officers -- all without any competition at all. These six were "elected" on December 3. The top post was handed (back) to Giampaolo Pioli of Italy, who engaged in outright censorship while last using the position.

   An Italian media, the only ones reporting Pioli's coronation, said that "Back to guide the Italian Association of correspondents accredited to the United Nations (UNCA). Giampaolo Pioli, the National Newspaper, and 'was elected president of the organization that owns the 250 journalists 'residents' at the UN that become about three thousand in the days of the General Assembly." Click here for that, then (Google?) translate.

  It's telling, the idea that UNCA "owns" journalists, particularly all resident correspondents -- that is false. Also, well under fifty percent of that false 250 number voted. And what is that percentage, of 3000? The censor does not have the mandate that Dujarric UNwisely publicly claimed, for the UN's Censorship Alliance. Will correction of any of this be sought? We'll see.

  That Andrea Bocelli is UNCA's awardee -- Pioli was head of the committee -- was revealed here: "The Made in Italy arrives in America with a partnership against violence against women. The more than 600 distinguished guests will receive the bracelet Tatu, the new brand led by Manuel Giannini, Luca Zafarana Benedettelli and Barbara... This year the United Nations Correspondents Association will award the Master Andrea Bocelli and his wife Veronica Berti with UNCA Global Citizens of the Year for the devotion of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation towards people in difficulty due to illness, disability, poverty and ' social exclusion and for the 'special commitment in favor of Haiti. Sting and Trudie Styler will be rewarded for the work as co -fondatori Rainforest Foundation Fund."

  In fairness to Bocelli, it is pointed out he has worked on the Haiti issue. We'll add a link here - his foundation (which when searched for the word "cholera" yields "no result found - Sorry, we were unable to find any results that matched your search terms.") So what about the UN bringing cholera? What about the group, the UN Censorship Alliance, that's using him and others to prop themselves up?

   UN scribes and censors citing Haiti without reference to the UN having brought cholera there and killed over 8000 Haitians and hidden from court papers since, providing no restitution to families who lose their breadwinner. In a dinner for which they are hawking "discounted" tickets for $100. This is telling.

  After his censorship push in 2012, Pioli was rarely seen at the UN; even when back, pressuring people to vote for him, he did not ask questions in any noon briefing or stakeout (though he did appear in evening wear with his ubiquitous glass of wine, winning the title Party-Boy Pioli.)

  But there is nothing funny about it. Pioli, who had rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's ambassador, unilaterally granted Kohona's request to use UNCA to screen inside the UN a government film denying war crimes, and sat on a panel with only Kohona and his deputy Shavendra Silva, who is still in the news. From the December 3 UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: I'm going to ask really fast on Sri Lanka.  You mentioned the Rights up Front initiative.  So I wanted to ask, there has recently been published in a Sri Lankan publication, previously been censored or blocked by the Government, Lanka eNews, the detailed testimony of somebody saying in the final stage of the conflict, the presidential brother, Defense Minister Gotabya Rajapaksa, told Shavendra Silva, who was on the Secretary-General’s senior advisory group, to kill all surrenderees.  That's now been published.  He said they're willing to put it into the thing in Geneva.  What I wonder is, given the UN's role at that time in assuring people that were surrendering that they would be treated in compliance with international and humanitarian law, is the UN aware of this?  What now is the response to it?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I have not seen that report.  But I will take a look into it.

  Seven hours later, nothing. Already, the issue of Sri Lanka is covered up in the UN. Will Pioli be able, as he tried before, to cover it up or white wash it more?

   When Inner City Press reported, after his screening panel with Silva and Kohona, that Kohona has been his tenants in the past, Pioli demanded that reporting of these facts must be removed from the Internet (compilation of audio here) or he would use UNCA to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. There followed a kangaroo court proceeding, which has resulted in Inner City Press receiving death threats from Sinhalese extremists in Sri Lanka.

 Voice of America, then on the UNCA Executive Board, wrote a letter to the UN asking that Inner City Press' accreditation be reviewed; a Freedom of Information Act request showed that VOA said it had the support of Agence France Presse and Reuters (which they tried to censor its anti-Press complaint to the UN by claiming it is copyrighted, here.)

  Now for 2015 Pioli returns. Reuters has on the board its current correspondent though no longer its retired UN bureau chief. Agence France Presse, which had been off the UNCA Executive Committee after having used it to complain about Press reporting on Herve Ladsous, sought to return but was not able.

 Only News Agency of Nigeria, which ran in 2013, did not run this time: its UN office space was taken away in 2014, ostensibly due to scarcity when UNCA is given a big room that sits empty and locked most of the time. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance -- now again with a chieftain with a documented history of demanding censorship.

  This is the face of UN decay, sanitized if at all by the desire of some to go to parties and balls, free lunch, or a backdoor way into the UN, like Kohona requested and got unilaterally from his former landlord, without written polling of other board members, to screen inside the UN a government rebuttal to a firm that was not shown in the UN. And then a campaign for censorship, triggering death threats. This is the face of UN decay: unsanitizable.

Silva, Pioli and his former tenant, Kohona, censorship demand not shown (but sample audio links here)

Ready for censorship, raised wine glass, Haiti cholera not shown

 As to the Secretary General's race, a November reform letter's signatories include Avaaz, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Equality Now, FEMNET, Forum-Asia, Global Policy Forum, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Social Watch, Third World Network, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy and the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

The new Free UN Coalition for Access, formed in response to the decline in media access and transparency generally under Ban Ki-moon, heartily agrees with the need to reform and improve the Secretary General selection process.

 Candidates so far including Helen Clark of UNDP, who virtually never takes press questions while in New York, the headquarters of UNDP, amid untransparent layoffs, and Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, an agency which on November 3 led an event about journalists at which not a single question from a journalist was taken. There's also among others, in this SG race we will closely cover, a Latina trio, Kristalina Georgieva, Miroslav Lajcak, Kevin Rudd, Dalia Grybauskaite, Vuk Jeremic, Danilo Turk, Jan Kubis - that is, unlike the UN's Censorship Alliance, at least there is some competition.

Tellingly, after September's General Assembly debate week, UNCA's “complaints” to Ban's Secretariat are to ask for fewer events, for a private wi-fi network for in-house UN journalist and not those who cover to cover the week, and a booklet co-signed with Ban.

UN Censorship Alliance lunch, Feb 11, 2014 including Pam Falk and continuing Kahraman Haliscelik, Sylviane Zehil, Erol Avdovic, Bouchra Benyoussef, Seana Magee, Nabil Abi Saab, Evelyn Leopold, Talal Al-Haj, Melissa Kent, Michelle Nichols, Sangwon Yoon, Valeria Robecco, Sherwin Bryce-Pease, Zhenqiu Gu UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Meanwhile, UNCA makes no mention of restrictions of access that week such as the French mission ordering all non-French journalists out of the UN's Press Briefing Room, and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous physically blocking the Press' camera, Vine here.

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access has raised these issues, publicly, in fliers and in the UN's Press Briefing Room. Tellingly, the UN Secretariat appears ready to limit its "interlocutors" on media access to the very insiders at UNCA who have overseen and promoted the decline in access.

 Pioli, while strong-arming in his fashion for votes, said no one could simultaneously be a member of the Free UN Coalition for Access and "his" UNCA. Meanwhile, while UNCA tries to demand that it always gets the first question at press conferences, that this is somehow a precedent, at the December 2, 2014, Program of Work press conference by the Chadian UN Security Council President, the first question explicitly went to the Free UN Coalition for Access. That's it: no precedent, no more, particularly with the return of the Censor in chief.

  An analogy that some have now made: it's one thing that Kurt Waldheim was UN Secretary General once. But what would it say about the UN if he were to return, after a haitus, for more time atop the organization? We'll see.

  Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, is appearing in polls as running for president of his native South Korea in 2017. Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson about it, who said Ban is “currently” focused on his current job. This has been repeated in South Korea, here. The UN is being used; the UN is in further decline; there are moves afoot to stem the tide of decay. Watch this site.


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