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Day before UN Raid, Here's Letter ICP Sent to DPI Officials, Raid as Response?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- The business day before the UN raided Inner City Press' office, searching papers and allowing UN Correspondents Association president Pamela Falk of CBS to take photographs, Inner City Press for the new Free UN Coalition for Access had sent a series of requests to the chief of the UN's Department of Public Information, with a copy to the DPI staffer who led the raid on March 18.

The March 15 FUNCA requests, which clear hit a nerve or were responded to by the raid, went as follows:

On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, this is a renewed request:

(1) to be informed of the UN Department of Public Information's rules, if any, for due process for journalists.

(1a) As a DPI case pending for two and a half weeks, this is a formal request for response, explanation or retraction of DPI's February 27 letter / complaint regarding reporting on a February 22 meeting convened by DPI, as requested immediately to the author of the letter on February 27 and in light of the responsive e-mail of another FUNCA member to whom the February 27 letter was copied. We are writing again in this way due to the lack of response to date. Please state the rules, if any, for the filing in bad faith of false or pre-textual complaints.

(1b) As a timely test case, this is a request to be provided a copy of complaints seemingly filed by correspondents of Reuters and of Agence France Presse, representative of and on UNCA's Executive Committee, following a verbal exchange -- that is, more free speech than that on February 22.

That verbal exchange was regarding the DPKO's decision to belatedly answer a question about DRC rapes which the USG for DPKO Herve Ladsous had previously refused to answer, and which the SG only incompletely answered on March 5. DPKO provided that half-answer, anonymously, to correspondents who had not asked the questions, and not to the actual questioner, on March 7.

(2) This is also a request to be informed if it is DPI's role, or whose role it is, to ensure that such mis-direction and favoritism in the provision of information and answers by the UN does not continue.

(3) Also on favoritism and a seeming failure to implement a committed-to reform, this is an objection to the posting of UNCA flyers on UNCA letterhead on the new non-UNCA bulletin board in front of MALU's office. As you will remember, FUNCA asked that the glassed in UNCA bulletin board be opened to all accredited correspondents, but this was denied.

DPI said there would not be a FUNCA bulletin board -- again, favoritism for one organization over another -- but said there would be a separate board for non-UNCA postings.

But this week UNCA posted on this new board something it didn't put on its own board. It can't have both -- this is too much.

(4) More generally, we continue to await written response to the 10 most needed reforms submitted by FUNCA on February 10.

(5) We continue to be troubled by the lack of response to an incident in which photographs taken of a visiting UN “partner” (Beyonce) were ordered to be deleted, and we do not believe that as a way of informing non-UN security of the rights of journalists here telling the cafeteria contractor Aramark is sufficient.

(6) Similarly, we do not believe that telling one of DPKO's three spokespeople to no longer seize the UNTV microphone is a sufficient response to the December 18 UNSC stakeout incident complained of to DPI. We ask to be informed of DPI's action on the Greek Foreign Minister's entourage's order that UNTV not record, and that journalists not photograph, at the UNSC stakeout.

(7) We ask to be informed of why the move-back from the open cubicles -- i.e. the “whistleblower free zone” -- above the library has been delayed, and why no vote of resident correspondents was ever taken. What is the new move-back date?

Since many of these question have been long pending, hoping for rapid response.

While the chief of DPI, despite the content of the complaints above, referred the whole thing down to overseer of MALU (which led the raid) Stephane Dujarric, and we will cover his “response” in a future story, the real response, it seems clear, was to go into Inner City Press' office the next business day, without notifying Inner City Press which was in the UN building attending DPI events, and take photographs and search papers. This is what this UN has become. Watch this site.

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