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As Ban Silent at AU on Press Rights, UN in NY Tries to Limit Free Speech for Some

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 28 -- It becomes ever clearer that the UN has little understanding or respect for free speech or freedom of the press, from top to bottom.

  Over the weekend Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Somalia's president but did not raise the issue of journalists murdered and jailed.

   Lower down on Monday, the UN ignored the obvious free speech problem raised by its January 24 directive, "postponed" on January 25, to tear down critical flyers by the Free UN Coalition for Access while leaving up a glassed in bulletin board of the UN Correspondents Association, a/k/a the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  FUNCA last week wrote to UN Department of Public Information officials Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal and Stephane Dujarric objection to the lack of equal treatment. A postponement was given, but still no formal response has been made.

   Then after 6 pm on Monday DPI's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit issued an ambiguous "follow up" that entirely ignores the issue of disparate treatment, and concludes "for posting in a public area, please go through BCSS, as per UN Administrative Guidelines for Posting Flyers."

  As raised last week, the arcaic policy cited does not apply, as it defines flyers as

"A flyer in this guideline is used for defining a single page leaflet advertising an event or other activity sponsored by the Permanent Mission(s) and/or the United Nations department(s) and held on the United Nations premises -- Secretariat, DCI, DC2 and UNICEF."

   FUNCA is not a UN department or a country's Permanent Mission, and it is not advertising any event.

  More generally, MALU's 6 pm e-mail again ignores that UNCA has a glassed in board for posting, in a public area, on which UNCA for months in 2012 displayed a letter denouncing Inner City Press.

   Was that letter approved by the UN BCSS?

  The UNCA letter was occasioned by articles Inner City Press wrote about France putting forward Herve Ladsous as the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping, about Sri Lanka and conflict of interest, and about the French mission to the UN.

  In connection with the letter, the UN's Stephane Dujarric was asked to "review" Inner City Press' accreditation by Voice of America, which said it had the support of Reuters and Agence France Presse.

   As revealed by documents obtained from VOA under the Freedom of Information Act, Dujarric thanked VOA's Steve Redisch and said he would call him. Dujarric has never answered when he would have informed Inner City Press, or what the UN journalists' due process rights are.

  Even on Friday after MALU issued its postponement, UNCA "leaders" tore down FUNCA flyers. On Monday, before MALU's further incitement, five more were torn down. We note that UNCA's new president Pamela Falk often points out that she is a lawyer. Is this disparate treatment, and attack on free speech, appropriate?

  In fact, under Falk's less than one month tenure, her UNCA has for the first time engaged in counterfeiting flyers and social media accounts - all anonymously, of course. And Falk has said nothing.

  FUNCA has immediately objected to the 6 pm e-mail, to MALU and again to Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal and Stephane Dujarric:

FUNCA continues to await DPI's response to its January 25 formal request that either the "UNCA" bulletin board be unbranded and opened up to all correspondents, or that DPI (or BCSS, to which the request was copied) formally permit / provide a FUNCA bulletin board.

The MALU e-mail sent out past 6 pm today does not address this now four-day old request. As we noted, the BCSS guidelines you cite only apply to flyers about events by Permanent Missions and UN Departments. And, commercial Verizon flyers (and other material on DHLA walls) do not follow these Guidelines.

The concern is unequal treatment, and violation of free speech rights. DPI's actions to date, and this evening, improperly favor one group / organization over another, and shall we say "embolden" them.

Still awaiting responses to unaddressed questions from January 17 meeting, now more than 10 days ago. One additional question:

How is it legitimate to restrict accreditation to those "formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly"?

Until November 29, 2012, did this include Palestine? Does it not include the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus? Under the First Amendment in the host country, no license is required, and this type of unequal treatment of free speech is inappropriate. Awaiting your responses; all of the other outstanding questions -- including the UN journalists' due process question that was put by the NYCLU to you, Peter, and Maher Nasser on July 5, 2012, are reiterated.

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