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UNCA's Pioli Said Would Sue on Rent to Sri Lanka Kohona, Didn't, Returns

By Matthew Russell Lee, part of a series

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- Press access and answers to questions at the UN have been in decline since 2011. Now the new Free UN Coalition for Access is combating the trend, which can only be done by naming names and providing history and specifics, now including audio. And so this series.

  Giampaolo Pioli, who last time he was president of the United Nations Correspondents Association used the post to demand censorship, Guardian here, on December 3, 2014 "won" without any competition another turn as UNCA's chief censor.

  While in his tuxedo, wine glass in hand, Pioli can be a comical character or party-boy, there is nothing funny about this story.

  In this audio clip, Pioli in a meeting of the UN Correspondents Association demanded that Inner City Press say it was a "mistake" to report that he rented one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona, who later as Sri Lanka's Ambassador asked Pioli to screen a war crimes denial film inside the UN under UNCA banner, which Pioli granted without seeking prior approval of UNCA board members.

  Pioli said, "if you don't write that you did a mistake that had nothing to do with the press conference and the rent from Palitha Kohona, I sue you, legally, and I sue you anyway, probably, but I see what you write... I have to say that you made a mistake."

  It was no mistake. Pioli in the clip says the only reason he didn't sue was he was president of UNCA.

"I didn't sue you because I was president of UNCA," Pioli says in the clip.

   But in 2013 and 2014 Pioli wasn't president - and didn't sue. He has sought to return as president of UNCA in 2015 - for what purpose?

  The clip ends with Pioli's then Vice President from Reuters proposing a statement of mistake by 11 am the next morning - the same Reuters bureau chief has asked Google to censor him own complaint to the UN trying to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. This is the UN Censorship Alliance.

  When Inner City Press instead of censorship offered amplifications and to publish a letter to the editor of any length, Pioli rejected it and pushed to get Inner City Press thrown out. After some of this was reported in the media in Sri Lanka, and Inner City Press informed Pioli of this and of death threats it had received, Pioli refused to suspend his campaign, instead trying to use the threats as leverage to get Inner City Press to publish a "box," that he would dictate, on the front of its website.

  This is what UNCA became, the UN's Censorship Alliance, and what it is, or functions as. We will have more on this.

 In this audio clip, Pioli admits that "I asked you to take down the reference" to him having rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona, whose request for an UNCA screening of a Sri Lankan government war crimes denial film Pioli would later unilaterally grant. "Taking down" is a censorship - in this case, of a fact, having been Kohona's landlord, which Pioli doesn't deny.

  Pioli said that rental arrangement was not only OK, but also couldn't be reported on, because he said he used a broker. One, that is dubious; two, as Inner City Press  showed in July 2012, Pioli didn't use any broker to rent out a Hamptons property to anyone who could pay. Pioli's ad, on the Internet, offered

"ultra luxurious home was totally renovated in 2010 using the finest Italian materials and Italian artisans. Equally at home on the Amalfi Coast, you'll think you're in Italy, but you'll be on prestigious Red Creek Road in the heart of the Hamptons" with a rental price of "$80,000 - $90,000/month."

This was public, and can be questioned, and reported on. This is journalism.

  Pioli on the day in question was angry that Inner City Press asked at the day's UN noon briefing about the propriety of landlord relations by correspondents ostensibly covering the UN. But the question is entirely within the bound of investigative journalism - and to try to get a reporter thrown out for asking such a question is censorship.

 Now, despite the lack of any competition, Pioli has reappeared in the UN after a long hiatus to try to turn out the vote. But he has said, a person cannot be a member of UNCA and the Free UN Coalition for Access at the same time. Since this absurd rule is nowhere in UNCA's "Constitution," it seems Pioli has moved from attacking freedom of the press to attacking freedom of belief and association.  Who supports this?

  Pioli's attempts to censor are public. In a previous audio clip, here, Pioli as UN Correspondents Association president said it was fine that he withheld a copy of a complaint filed to the UN (in this case, by Reuters, copy went to Pioli as then-head of UNCA) -- that is, no due process for journalists. What kind of organization is UNCA? Under Pioli?

  Inner City Press quit UNCA, and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access with another Executive Committee member who quit UNCA in disgust. Now Pioli says no one could be a member of both. What kind of UN/CA is this?

 Note: later Reuters tried to get a leaked copy of its complaint banned from Google's Search, claiming it was private and copyrighted, here. What kind of organization is this?

 In a previous audio clip, two days before formally beginning a process to try to get Inner City Press thrown out, Giampaolo Pioli as President of the United Nations Correspondents Association complains about Inner City Press reporting that he rented out of his Manhattan apartments to "Palitha" [Kohona, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN] in the context of Pioli unilaterally using UNCA to screen a Sri Lanka government war crimes denial movie inside the UN.

 Two days later, Pioli would convene a UN Correspondents Association Excutive Committee meeting to "examine" Inner City Press and try to throw it out - first of UNCA, then of the UN at a whole. This is the Pioli slated to return, with no competition at all, to head what he made the UN's Censorship Alliance.

 In a previous audio clip, Pioli tried to dictate to Inner City Press how it should have covered Sri Lanka, suggesting it should simply transcribe what "Palitha" (Kohona) and Shavendra Silva said and not report that he, Pioli, had rented out of his Manhattan apartments to Kohona before agreeing to use UNCA to screen the Sri Lankan government's war crimes denial film inside the UN.

  "Why did you have to" report that? Pioli demanded, claiming the rental arrangement was significantly further in the past than it was.

  When Inner City Press refused to remove the article from the Internet, and Pioli refused the offer to publish a letter to the editor, Pioli made good on his threat to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. Complaints were filed by Pioli's first vice president from Reuters, who also used the Reuters servers for the campaign.

  Now Pioli has reappeared, slated to re-take over the helm of UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance. Who will serve him last his past first vice president, a position current held by a representative of Turkish media? As to how correspondent Pioli owns so much real estate, there is a Turkish connection on which we will have more. The UN cannot be allow to further decay on press freedom and access. Watch this site.


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