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At UN, Selective Banning of Press, No Answer to NY Civil Liberties Union

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- Although inept, the UN at times tries its best to mimic some of its police state members.

  Not only does the UN hold itself immune from any freedom of the press protections -- it has yet to respond to the New York Civil Liberties Union questions about Voice of America's and now it is clear others' attempts to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN -- but some in its Security unit make up arbitrary rules against particular journalists, hoping it seems to trigger a reaction as a pretext for further action.

  Last month as Colombia's presidency of the Security Council began, a UN Security Lieutenant suddenly announced that a storage room next to the Security Council stakeout could no longer be used, should be locked. Inner City Press asked for the Lieutenant's name, but he refused to give it. Other Security officers shrugged, and later the storage room was unlocked again.

  Soon thereafter, a UN Security officer at the 47th Street gate suddenly told Inner City Press that it could not enter through that gate, either at all or with a backpack. It was the first time this "order" was given, but Inner City Press obeyed, went around and in.

  During a lull Inner City Press fit the encourage into a 140 character tweet. UN Security responded that having blocked entry was a mistake, or "b.s." as one official put it.

But the next time Inner City Press came in through 47th Street and the same officer was there, he again said "you can't enter." The female officer with him, seemingly high ranked, told him to stand down and waved Inner City Press in. And so the rogue operations seemed to be over.

  But on the morning of Friday, August 10 as Inner City Press entered the 47th Street gate to cover a 10 am meeting in the North Lawn building, the same officer blocked Inner City Press, this time saying that journalists as a group cannot enter through 47th Street.

  Inner City Press said this is not the case, this is b.s. as it had previously been told, journalists enter this way all the time, and reminded him that he had previously been overruled. But the officer, Richard Johnson, insisted.

  A Security Council Deputy Permanent Representative who came in monents later and witnessed the encounter asked Inner City Press, "why are they doing this to you? You are in front of the Security Council all the time. Now you can't come in through this gate?" Why indeed.

  But the UN doesn't feel a need to answer questions. It has not answered the NYCLU's July 5 letter; the officer could not cite any rule or who had given him this instruction; the UN lieutenant would not even give his name. How can the UN purport to teach "rule of law" policing under these conditions? Watch this site.

Footnote: The previous day, August 9, at the UN's noon briefing Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: This is the UN dispute tribunal. So there was a decision after a long delay in the case of a UN Security Officer, DSS, a matter of promotion and exams. It’s a pretty long decision and it’s very critical of DSS management. Some even tied it to Mr. Starr leaving. I’m not sure if that’s the case or not. But I’m wondering what is the UN’s response to this, are they going to appeal? Did they think the decision was wrong and the criticism made in it, including of relations with the staff union and other things? Will there be a response to it?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, my immediate response to the little aside in the middle about Mr. Starr, that is absolutely unfounded and gratuitous, not necessary. And on the broader question you’ve raised, I will see if there is a response.

Inner City Press: Sure. I wasn’t trying to, I was just saying that people say it. I wanted you to deny it and I’m glad to hear you.

Spokesperson Nesirky: I do emphatically.

Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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