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Big Media Working with UN to Expel Inner City PressMatthew Russell Lee Special to Salem-News.com
UN, France and big 5 media trying to expel small agency asking questions about their sponsor's violations.
(UNITED NATIONS) - Four hours after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous refused on camera to answer Inner City Press' questions about documented charges that his Department introduced cholera into Haiti, and has Sri Lanka alleged war criminal general Shavendra Silva as an adviser representatives of five media organizations presented charges to eject Inner City Press.
Video of Ladsous' refusal to answer is here, Minute 28:10.
The subsequently disclosed five signers of the charge letter to set up a "board of examination" to "investigate" Inner City Press with the goal of expelling the Press include not only Louis Charbonneau of Reuters and Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse (as explained below, a major Ladsous supporter or tool).
Now they have expanded to five, with Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia and Margaret Besheer of Voice of America, the Treasurer of UNCA who was not present for Tuesday afternoon's move toward expulsion.
Despite not hearing the defense, "proxy" votes by Besheer, Masood Haider reportedly of Pakistan's Daily Dawn and seemingly others were counted against Inner City Press.
Besheer has previously rebuked Inner City Press to write "more positively" about the UN, while devoting much focus to the British and other royals.
During Tuesday afternoon's session, Bloomberg's Flavia Krause-Jackson told Inner City Press, We're not talking about giving evidence... we do not like your attitude.
Referring to Tuesday's stonewalling by Ban's Peacekeeping chief, another UNCA Executive Committee member told Inner City Press, "What you did today with Mr. Ladsous was a big no-no... That will come and haunt you."
Inner City Press asked if the no-no was insisting that a UN Under Secretary General getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year should be expected to answer questions about introducing cholera into Haiti, and accepting a war criminal as an adviser.
UNCA President Giampaolo said we should jump up and defend you -- but UNCA didn't. Nor did any one else on the UNCA Executive Committee report on Ladsous' proposal to the C-34 Committee that the UN should use drones, which Inner City Press broke then got further confirmed, to Ladsous' displeasure.
By this logic, it would be fine with these five if Ban Ki-moon stopped answering Press questions and expelled critical non-corporate media.
The stated purpose of the UN Correspondents Association is to protect the freedom of the press and protect the rights of bona fide correspondents to secure accreditation and unhindered access to the UN without discrimination.
But it appears that big media at the UN is seeking to expel a smaller, more critical online news site, Inner City Press. For some, it is big media versus small. For others of Tuesday's indicters, it is state controlled media from countries reliably accused, including in Inner City Press, of human rights violations.
Now they are voting to expel a media which asks questions about their sponsor's violations.
Inner City Press told them, as before, its view that this is anti-press freedom, an abuse of power that will be opposed and reported on, publicly.
UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli also at the beginning of Tuesday's inquisition complained to Inner City Press about "your blog," citing "complaints over the years."
In the run up to the meeting, Inner City Press asked Pioli to list or summarize these complaints, in part so that the medieval-sounding "board of examination" would not include people who are complainants or the witnesses they would seek to use.
But neither before or at Tuesday's meeting, at which the above five and more voted to form a "board of examination" were the charges listed or summarized: only the vague word "harassment," akin for example to "blasphemy."
While Inner City Press has while reporting on the UN had not a single incident or allegation of physical confrontation, Charbonneau claimed that he felt physically threatened inside the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium at 11 am.
(Inner City Press did say "you disgust me" after being informed that Charbonneau had circulated an email seeking to expel Inner City Press without even sending a copy to Inner City Press - the response was verbal, but not physical in the least.)
Meanwhile, Pioli during Tuesday's meeting banged on the table and shouted as well. Al Haj remarked, you'll see that tomorrow on the blog. So here it is.
But UNCA First Vice President Louis Charbonneau filed a complaint with the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit saying Inner City Press is "making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs."
Charbonneau sent copies of his complaint to MALU against Inner City Press to UNCA Treasurer Margaret Basheer of Voice of America, Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse (who previously used UNCA against Inner City Press after ICP reported that Herve Ladsous was at best Nicolas Sarkozy's second choice for the French position atop UN Peacekeeping) and UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli.
Inner City Press asked Charbonneau why he sent a copy of his MALU complaint also to Witcher, who is not an officer of UNCA. Charbonneau replied, I don't need to tell you that. Apparently there are other things he feels he and Reuters don't need to do, such as giving credit when stealing the exclusives of other, smaller media.
As previously reported, Charbonneau and Reuters used without credit Inner City Press' exclusive March 28 report that US official Jeffrey Feltman would come to head the UN Department of Political Affairs.
By contrast, Foreign Policy's "The Cable" credited Inner City Press. When asked about it, Charbonneau said for a year he has had a policy or practice of not crediting Inner City Press. He repeated Tuesday, we don't have to give credit, it's just a courtesy.
Repeated inquiries with Reuters if this is an acceptable policy have gone unanswered, by "ethics" chief Greg McCune up to Reuters CEO James C. Smith. Perhaps they just hope Charbonneau succeeds in expelling Inner City Press.
Bloomberg, specifically Flavia Krause-Jackson, previously reported without any credit Inner City Press' exclusive expose that 14 kilograms of cocaine was found in the UN mailroom (her defense is that once the UN held a 6 pm press conference responding to Inner City Press' story and questions at noon, she and Bloomberg didn't have to give any credit). AFP also stole the story, as did some other chargers and supporters, Tuesday voters.
During Tuesday's meeting, Al-Arabiya's Al-Haj complained that a week before one of Inner City Press' many stories about UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay getting cut from a four to two year extension by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he had reported on the topic on television in Arabic. He said he saw the Inner City Press report but didn't come to seek credit.
If you had, we have have given it, as we credited for example BBC and a tweeter this weekend about the Congo, Inner City Press replied.
I'm too big to do that, Al-Haj replied.
Inner City Press said that UNCA should not be just a club of big media. Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg interjected, don't try to make this about big bad media against a small one. But how not? Look at the five signers listed --there's not even the pretense that is not what it is.
Pioli has expressed anger at Inner City Press reporting that he accepted rent money from Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona and then arranged for Kohona to screen his government's genocide-rebuttal film "Lies Agreed To" in the UN without asking other UNCA Executive Board members about it, and without the underlying Channel 4 film "Killing Fields" being screened in the UN, because it would conflict with a ceremony for Ban Ki-moon.
Pioli points out, and we include, that the rent acceptance was "seven or eight" years ago.
The fact of the screening and non-recusal remains -- and the fact that the Sri Lankan mission has thought it can impact Inner City Press coverage and continued accreditation at the UN by writing to Giampaolo and his UNCA Executive Committee. So why does Sri Lanka think it has such access to UNCA?
Pioli demanded that the article, even as modified, be removed from the Internet. Inner City Press refused, calling this censorship.
Pioli screamed at Inner City Press, "I will get you thrown out of the UN".
At Tuesday's meeting Pioli said, waving around a copy of an Inner City Press story stating his rental relation with Sri Lanka's Ambassador that also said it was long in the past. You really shot yourself in the foot with this story, Pioli said Tuesday.
He made the "board of examination" and expulsion process his way of erasing the story, saying "if the panel finds your behavior was acceptable, that means that I lied."
Well, no - it is a report of facts, suggesting that Pioli should have recused himself from unilaterally scheduling an UNCA screening of the Sri Lankan government's genocide denial film after accepting rent money from Sri Lanka's Ambassador, even seven or eight years ago.
There was no answer when Inner City Press gave the example of another government facing more politically powerful charges of genocide. If they paid rent to an UNCA official and then screened their genocide denial in UNCA's space in the UN, it would certainly be reported.
But the UNCA Executive Committee members appear like many others not to care much about the Sri Lanka genocide issue, of over 40,000 civilians killed in May 2009. Smaller but somehow more important numbers motivate them and their media.
Before the vote, Pioli suggested that the solution was for Inner City Press to file a complaint with MALU against Charbonneau of Reuters. Inner City Press said no, it has a policy of not seeking to limited the access of or dis-accredit other media.
Also at Tuesday's meeting Talal Al-Haj said of the Sri Lanka - Pioli story, I would like to see the facts behind your story, I need this to be investigated. Inner City Press asked if Al-Haj and the UNCA Executive Committee was asking to know the sources of the story. Of the board of examination, Al-Haj said we can choose any five
But can those complaining, or witnesses, be on the board of examination? Can the prosecutor or witness be on the jury? How can they then give evidence?
We're not talking about giving evidence, Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg said, as noted. We do not like your attitude.
Another Executive Committee member said there's no need to disclose or even decide on the charges before naming the Board of Examination, since "it's up to them to decide" what the charges are. By this Kafka-esque logic, the accuser can be on the jury.
Inner City Press' objections were overruled, in judge-like fashion, by Giampiolo Pioli himself. This has all the hallmarks of a kangaroo court, step by step.
Pioli dismissively said, or "ruled," go ahead and write on the blog and tell us what due process is. Okay.
Strangely, a correspondent for amedia which has in the past credited Inner City Press on a Libya scoop Tuesday voted for the process to try to expel Inner City Press. Does it highlight the difference between the media's English and non-English versions or something deeper?
An UNCA Executive Committee member who spoke up for Inner City Press, saying that this should be resolved by understanding each other, was told by Al-Haj "don't be biased." Al-Haj continued, I have a big problem what you are writing about Pioli.
So, at least in this case, it seems the threat of expulsion is used to stop the reporting of facts from which a conflict of interest, serving a government and even official charged with genocide, can plausibly be inferred.
The others have their own motives, for example Witcher of AFP's servile service of both the French Mission and Ladsous, from Ladsous' first day on the job.
When Ladsous refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about cholera in Haiti and a Sri Lankan alleged war criminal as an adviser to Ladsous, Banbury and Ban Ki-moon, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky cut Inner City Press off.
In the noon briefing afterward he wouldn't give Ban's view; in the May 25 noon briefing he refused to say if journalists in the UN have a right to see complaints or files kept about and against him, saying it will be dealt with "off camera."
It hasn't been. Rather, off camera Nesirky immediately conferred with Charbonneau, a former Reuters colleague.
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