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Can UN Investigate Itself After It Let Raid Photos of Bookshelf Go to BuzzFeed?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 1 -- The UN preaches the rule of law and the separation of powers. But does it practice them? A filing today by Inner City Press may answer this question.

  The UN lawlessly entered Inner City Press' office without notice or consent on March 18, went through papers, took photos and allowed others, including CBS' Pamela Falk, the president of the UN Correspondents Association to take photos. Post raid video here.

  Inner City Press complained. The UN admitted its entry to Inner City Press' desk area was improper -- but it refused to say who it had allowed to enter.

  The UN Department of Public Information's Stephane Dujarric said only that photographs of Inner City Press' desk and bookshelf that were sent to BuzzFeed through the anonymous e-mail account “Concerned UN Reporter” and were published on March 22 were “not ours.”

  Did that mean not DPI's? Or not the UN's more generally? Dujarric refused to say, as did Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky on March 25 and 26. Video here.

  Meanwhile while Inner City Press published an interim analysis of where the photographs may have come from, the response of Pam Falk of CBS and UNCA was to send a legal threat to not even ask the question. CBSNews despite requests has not clarified its relation to Falk's legal threat.

  Faced with such stonewalling but with more information coming in from sources, Inner City Press on April 1 asked the UN to investigate -- itself. Here is a portion of the filing, receipt of which has been confirmed:

This is a formal request for an investigation by the UN of the taking of photographs of my desk and bookshelf and the passing of these photographs, through an anonymous "Concerned UN Reporter" e-mail address, to where they were published on March 22.

This took place during an entry into my office which was without any notice to me or my consent, and which the UN had acknowledged in writing and oral was improper. They have refused, however, to provide basic information about who they allowed into my office, who took photographs and to whom they passed these photographs.

Beyond the improper entry, this violates freedom of the press, and my privacy and freedom of thought and inquiry.

This then is a request for an investigation of the UN itself and of its staff and officials, as well as others it allowed into my office in Room L-253 on March 18, 2013.

In light of the issues raised, I ask to be kept apprised in writing of the progress and any outside referral of this investigation, at this e-mail address and via the Free UN Coalition for Access, which is a co-requester.

On March 18, 2013 while I was covering the Security Council at the press stakeout area there, I was telephoned by another reporter who informed me that my office was “full of people.”

...To jump forward, on March 22 ran an article which included three photographs taken inside my office -- on “my side of the office,” see below -- which BuzzFeed wrote had been provided to it through an anonymous e-mail address “Concerned UN Reporter,” who also spoke with BuzzFeed, using that adopted anonymous name. See,

At the March 25 and March 26 UN noon briefings I asked to be informed of who had been in my office -- including as permitted without my consent by DPI -- who had taken photographs and to whom they had given them. See,

The spokesperson for the Secretary General said, “I know that you wrote to the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information and Communications yesterday, and that you received a reply from Stéphane Dujarric, I don’t have anything to add to that.

Inner City Press: Do you see why, I just wanted to, one follow-up on that, do you see why the reply, my question is he is saying it is not the UN’s photographs, so inevitably that makes me believe the only person I am aware that took photographs was Pamela Falk of UNCA, but she has made a legal threat that if I write that, I guess CBS News will sue. So I am asking you, it seems like, it’s just, it’s simple to clean it up; I didn’t take the photograph, the photographs were taken that day, clearly in an area that DPI invited individuals into. So I was limited to one question — who did they invite in?

Spokesperson: I don’t have anything to add beyond what I have already said.

What DPI's Stephane Dujarric has written to me is... “I personally looked at our pictures and those posted on BuzzFeed and it's clear that they are not the same photographs. Again, we recognize that you should have been called before entering your part of the shared office.

Note for purposes of this request that his phrase they are not “our pictures” leaves it unclear if he means the pictures taken by DPI or by the UN as a whole, DSS and whoever else from the UN they let in.

After Inner City Press publicly speculated that the photographs might have come from the UN or, for example, from Pamela Falk who was taking photographs, Ms. Falk told me in writing from her e-mail address to “cease and desist from publishing statements which are either inaccurate or cast my actions in a false light.”

Given the relative financial size of CBS and Inner City Press, this threat has the effect of discouraging further inquiry. Hence, this formal request to the UN.

I am concerned about asking DSS to investigate... DSS, and then give the report to DPI, which is the entity which improperly entered and let others into my office. Just as New York State and others have “outside counsels,” and the New York City Police Department has a CIVILIAN Complaint Review Board, I am asking for a similar avoidance on conflicts of interest in the requested investigation, and I ask to be informed of all UN procedures and policies in this regard.

   There is an annex, too. Watch this site.

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