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UN: Sri Lanka


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UNCA Helm Reclaimed by Pioli, Of Real Estate, War Crimes & Threats

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 3 -- 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, including for example Shashi Tharoor now snarking at the process. 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 have been "elected" today, December 3.

 It's been a pure rubber stamp. The top post has been handed (back) to Giampaolo Pioli, who engaged in outright censorship while last using the position. Since then he 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 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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