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After Reuters & AFP Tried to Expel Press, FUNCA Fliers Defaced for Coronation

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 5 -- Four weeks ago the Free UN Coalition for Access was launched, calling for more accountability from UN officials to answer questions, for multi-party democracy and for more fairness in the UN's treatment of the different media which cover it.

  FUNCA was formed after a year in which the UN Correspondents Association first demanded censorship, then when that failed tried to expel the Press, then tried to get it dis-accredited from the UN.

  During this time, UNCA did nothing as some journalists were pushed out of office space, and others were disciplined with no due process.

  Now, FUNCA has raised cases of journalists denied accreditation to the UN, and disparate treatment in the allocation of work space even as the UN proposes to use dwindling resources and space on not only an UNCA "Club" but also an UNCA Office and even an "UNCA Pantry."

   Even as this long-time, some say decaying single party pushed back, scoffing when FUNCA asked questions and tearing down its fliers, the high road was taken.

   When for example in the South African mission's January 3 press conference FUNCA could have been called on first, it deferred to the older group, content to go second. But when it did, the initial questioner hissed, "Jesus Christ."

   Then on January 4 FUNCA's fliers with its statement of principles including Freedom of the Press, and UN Freedom of Information, were defaced and left up with "Looney Club" scrawled on them, and the word "media" crossed out.  Photo here.

   This then is UNCA's response.

   And so the critique becomes more specific. In the January 8-10 UNCA election, already delayed contrary to the group's supposed constitution, there is NO COMPETITION for the top six spots. Each candidate is running unopposed, as in North Korea.

   Four of the six are people who held the same position in 2012, when the UNCA Executive Committee went all out to expel and then sought to dis-accredit the investigative Press.

    So now we'll name some names.

   Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, past and prospective first vice president of UNCA, told Voice of America that Reuters supported the VOA letter to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, click here for document obtained under the Freedom of Information.

 Reuters discussed suing Inner City Press for what it wrote -- "Looney Club" indeed -- and made inquiries with the US Mission to the UN.

   FOIA documents were twice sent for comment to the entire UNCA Executive Committee, without response. (Also on FOIA, Inner City Press is a media amicus in this just filed brief in McBurney v. Young, No. 12-17 of the US Supreme Court: Looney Club?)

   Agence France-Presse' Tim Witcher told Voice of America that AFP supported the VOA letter to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, and would send its own letter. Witcher, like Charbonneau, is "running" again to stay on the UNCA Executive Committee, presumably to try use the post for Agence FRANCE Presse and himself.

   It was Witcher who back in September 2011 asked UNCA to take action against Inner City Press following its report that Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to be put atop the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, was a last minute fill-in for Jerome Bonnafont.

  Jump cut to late 2012, when Ladsous emboldened by UNCA's anti-Press moves refused to answer any questions from Inner City Press, including about the 126 rapes in Minova by DPKO's partners in the Congolese Army.

  Then Ladsous took Charbonneau, Witcher and Margaret Besheer of Voice of America out into the hall. Is this then the "UNCA Hallway"? Or the real "UNCA Pantry"? Video here.

   On FUNCA's flier, the reference to Ladsous was defaced, implying Ladsous didn't answer the rape questions because they were not from "media."

  Who then were the questions from? And what type of media is it, that rarely even comes to ask questions, and then goes into the hallway with Ladsous like this?

   As noted in an earlier article about this "election," the views on all this of the new president-designate, nominated by the four-year president now outgoing, from censorship to dis-accreditation bids to (now) the defacing of FUNCA's fliers, are not yet known. It's increasingly like another succession recently discussed but barely acted on in the UN Security Council.

  From UNCA members current and past, it has been noted that in this current unopposed slate the top two UNCA posts would both be filled by Americans. It's been noted that nowhere in the Executive Committee is there any sub-Saharan African or African-American journalist.

   Is this the UN? FUNCA for its part will stay as far away as possible from this corrupt coronation which openly violates the UNCA constitution.

   FUNCA has told the UN Department of Public Information that the so-called "UNCA Club" should be designated more neutrally as the "UN Press Club," same with the laughably named "UNCA Pantry;" the separate "UNCA Office" should be given to the journalists long waiting for work space in the UN. Watch this site.

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