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Sponsored by Oil Firm ENI, UNCA's Dag Promotes Sri Lanka Ambassador

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- In the campaign by Reuters, Agence France Press, Voice of America and other board members of the UN Correspondents Association to dis-accredit Inner City Press and slow the growth of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, the arguments have shifted.

  They've gone from stealth complaints and requests to dis-accredit to anonymous posts implying terrorist funding, or now funding by countries' Mission to the UN.

  Neither is true, but the allegation is ironic from UNCA, since even the program of its December 19, 2012 ball -- for which it charged $250 a plate -- lists as funders not only countries but, among others, the Italian oil company ENI, which also purchased the back page of UNCA's 2012 Directory.

  Beyond ENI, full page ads were purchased from UNCA by an Italian eyewear firm I-Velvet ("Italia Independent"), Benetton, Royale Air Maroc, the ginseng cream Sulwhasoo, J.Estina, watchmaker Romanson, and "Royal Gold La Bagnaia," built by Marisa Riffeser of the family owning the newspaper of UNCA's then President.

  So a composite UNCA supporter could grease up with Sulwhasoo, put on the I-Velvete shades and Romanson watch and play golf in Tuscany. Where does the investigative journalism come in?

   Even the awards that UNCA gave out were to media groups which bought full page ads in UNCA's program. The ostensibly beneficiary, UNCA-affiliated Dag Hammarskjold Fund for Journalism, is also funded by countries' mission and the same Italian oil company.

   Even UN Correspondents Association's faded jewel the "Dag" has been corrupted by the UNCA Executive Committee and its lack of conflict of interest rules.

   In late 2011 and the first half of 2012, UNCA's then-president tried to expel Inner City Press for its reporting on the Sri Lankan Mission's UNCA film screening denying war crimes, after a past financial relationship with -- the renting of one of Pioli's apartments some years ago when he was a UN official to -- Sri Lanka's now Ambassador to the UN, Palitha Kohona.
  Click here for the report by the Sri Lanka Campaign, led by former Secretary General Kofi Annan's Director of Communications Edward Mortimer.

  Then in 2012 the UNCA-affiliated Dag Hammarskjold Fund for Journalism chose as one of its four fellows a journalist from Sri Lanka who conducted laudatory interviews with the same Sri Lankan Ambassador, Kohona.

  Click as simply two examples here (quoting "Doctor" Kohona that Ban Ki-moon's "internal report will not affect Sri Lanka"), and here (YouTube praise of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon). 

  Again, where does the investigative journalism come in?

 "The Dag" also takes money from the Italian oil firm ENI, and has on its board the Voice of America reporter Margaret Besheer who pushed to expel Inner City Press along with other former and current UNCA Executive Committee members and the past -- and current? - UNCA President.

 These are all pictured in the "Dag" section of UNCA's glassed-in bulletin board , which the UNCA leadership demands to UN Media Accreditation be the only voice on on the UN's press floor walls. (ENI, presumably, could post an advertisement.)

 Sometimes it's hard to keep track: does UN Media Accreditation and Department of Public Information work for UNCA's Executive Board -- that is, for Reuters, AFP et al. -- or does UNCA work for the UN's Herve Ladsous and even Ban Ki-moon?

  That's why they call it the UN's Censorship Alliance.

   As a number of UN correspondents, and now some UN diplomats and officials have opined, UNCA's leadership has taken a turn toward the "disgusting." Their response to on the record criticism with anonymous posts alleging terrorist financing is a last straw. Watch this site.

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