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After ICP Asks of Sale of Internship AT UN, UN Spins It's Not a UN Internship

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- Yesterday morning Inner City Press published an expose that an internship at the UN was and is being sold, online, for more than $20,000. Then at the May 1 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN to justify that

Inner City Press: people should pay $22,000 to work in the UN, itís for the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, for six weeks. They are auctioning it off openly to benefit something called the RFK Young Leaders Foundation. It says, youíll learn how the UN really works.... I have written an article about it... I am wondering if the UN is comfortable with positions inside the building being sold for money online.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Iíll have to look into that; I am not aware of that particular unusual story, Matthew. [Video here, at 13:42]

  Nearly eight hours later after some others jumped on that story if only on Twitter, some far away giving credit or hat tips and some closer at hand troublingly not, the UN sent Inner City Press this answer:

Subject: Re: Your question today
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, May 1, 2013 at 7:53 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Internships at the United Nations are not for sale and cannot be put up for auction. We are trying to find out the details of how this came about and have contacted ''

Inner City Press immediately published this answer, in a second story noting that it had asked the RFK Center's Sierra Ewert:

"I am a journalist who covers the UN; this morning I wrote a story, then asked the UN a question, about the RFK Center's RFK Young Leaders role in the auctioning off of a "UN internship" for over $20,000 on I want to ask you, on deadline, what the RFK Center's knowledge of, involvement in, and position on this auctioning off of an internship at the UN is. Please respond ASAP."

  The RFK Center has yet to respond; some have come to its defense, or to the defense of Bruce Knotts. But is that the point?  Inner City Press put in other requests for comment.

   For what it's worth, the bidding started at $500 then got into a contest between "m.alam" and "Aygul," with the latter the interim (Young?) leader at $22,000.

  The UN, after publication of Inner City Press' second story, sent a "further to" clarification:

"Further to the earlier email, just to add that we do not believe that the internship in question is a UN internship. As mentioned, we are trying to establish the details of this case and have contacted ''"

  It was at this point, using precisely this "further to" language from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office, that another slowly came to the story. How did it happen?

 What was the role of the spokesperson's office, which just last week didn't answer Inner City Press' April 25 noon briefing question about Ban meeting with former French president (and now investment adviser for Qatar) Nicolas Sarkozy -- then gave the answer to Agence France Presse? There is a growing pattern of this.

  The auctioned internship story has hit a nerve given the parallel debate about the ethics of unpaid internships; some have become aware of it through that world, and that's good. But in the smaller world of those who cover the UN, there are troubling developments on which we have also put in questions. In the UN fUN-house it is "World Press Freedom Day;" one would expect answers. Watch this site.

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