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Sept 24, 2013

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Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

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UN Censorship Raised to New DPI Chief Alison Smale, Smale-Mail Before UNGA Week

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 12 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres picked Alison Smale as his head of “Global Communications,” some pointed to her pedigree with the New York Times as hope for a more responsive, less blatantly censorship-for-corruption management for the UN Department of Public Information. Perhaps it will be so. But Inner City Press has yet to see it, even as the UN General Assembly high level week approaches with blatant double standards on media access. Inner City Press with an open mind began writing to Ms. Smale on September 1, then on September 5 when another UN official said she was start, then on the 8th when DPI's Darrin Farrant said she started, then on September 11 when Smale was spotted with DPI's Hua Jiang. Among the issues raised has been the absurdity of offering unfettered access to the UN's Conference Building B1 to no-show state media like Egypt's Akhbar al Yom while restricting Inner City Press which reports in detail on the UN every day. But Ms. Smale, who presumably answered her e-mail when a reported and editor for the NYT in Berlin, has yet to respond. She was shepherded out of the General Assembly by Darrin Farrant on September 12; there was an empty Conference Building room for the “UN Communication Group” awaiting. But communication is about responding, and explaining, and improving. So far, not so much. Our Smale-mail: "This is a supplemented formal request to you upon your confirmed arrival today as the Under Secretary General of the UN Department of Public Information. I am a journalist who covers the UN, closely, for Inner City Press. Here is a story in today's Daily Nation of Kenya about (some) of my work - and restrictions imposed on me by DPI before your arrival, which should be removed before the General Assembly high level week, see below. As is pertinent here, I was covering the UN bribery scandal of former President of the General Assembly John Ashe and since-convicted Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng when for seeking to observe and record an event in the UN Press Briefing Room, by a group which received Ng Lap Seng funding (the UN Correspondents Association, which for reasons such as this I quit), I was without any hearing or appeal evicted from the UN. This “incident” - of trying to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room which I said and wrote in advance I would cover, for which no paperwork of a “Closed Meeting” was shown but from which I left (as I said I would) as soon as a UN Security officer asked me to - is and was the only basis cited for the actions against me: (Note that late last week, when the UN Press Briefing Room was used for a meeting with interns for the General Assembly week, they put a Closed sign on the door, which should have been but was not done back in January 2016.) Inner City Press' long time shared office S-303 was evicted and for the nineteen months since I have had my access restricted. On September 8 I learned that this will involving having less access to the General Assembly High Level Week than other correspondents who come in less, ask less and dare I say are less read than Inner City Press. On your first day, this is a request that you explain or modify the unjustifiable two tier system of access. If it is a matter of limiting that number of passes to access the 1B floor of the Conference Room, that is not the same thing as limiting the passes to those not unfairly evicted from office space due to coverage of irregularities in and by the UN. See, This despite the fact that even the UN's own Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) audit found that DPI's leadership did no due diligence before taking Ng Lap Seng's and his affiliates' funding for the UN slavery memorial and for events in the UN lobby: Since then, while I -- alone among UN correspondents -- daily covered the Ng Lap Seng trial this summer, I saw and then pursued and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act documents including one showing presumptive trading of UN support for Ng's Macau conference center plan for positive coverage of the UN Secretary General: As well as a formal request for full reinstatement, this is a request for your comment on this, including on what you intend to do so that these things are not repeated in DPI and the wider UN. I was never given a hearing, nor any opportunity to appeal. I have requested and am requesting to be reinstated as a resident correspondent and restored to S-303 - the Egyptian state media to which it was assigned rarely comes in and has not asked a single question this year. I have offered and am offering to help Akhbar al Yom transfer to any work space more appropriate for someone who rarely comes in. As you may know or will see, Inner City Press asks many questions at the UN noon briefing, and for example asked four questions at Friday's UN Security Council Program of Work press conference by Ethiopia's Ambassador and six questions at yesterday's (Sept 7) noon briefing, on Cameroon, Myanmar and other topics. Today September 11 I asked four questions, on Colombia, Togo, Cameroon and Kenya until the spokesman walked off saying, I'm done. Until my office is restored, I am restricted in downloading and editing the video of such UN question and answer sessions. So that you understand, after my resident correspondent's pass was torn off, the non-resident pass I was after three days given does not open the turnstiles to the UN conference building's second floor. I cannot as before stakeout meetings and events in the ECOSOC or Trusteeship Council Chambers nor the General Assembly, the body whose President was most involved in the bribery scandal I covered and am still covering. Reduced to a non-resident correspondent pass, I have been unable to stakeout meetings about peacekeeping and, most recently, a meeting in the ECOSOC chamber featuring a person shown in the Ng Lap Seng trial, which I covered, to have helped Ng launder his UN bribery money.  I need to have my resident correspondent access and office restored before the upcoming General Assembly; the unjustifiable restrictions have been impairing my coverage. This situation, the retaliation and lack of rules underlying it, point to a wider need for DPI to have rule to ensure content neutral accreditation and due process for journalist, a cause of which I have co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access. Here was the inquiry of two UN Special Rapporteurs, not meaningfully responded to: More on that to follow, I'm sure - but for now, this is a request for your action." This will be updated. @InnerCityPress


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