Friday, January 30, 2015

Excusive: For UN's Deputy Political Post, Russia's Titov & South Korea's Kim Won-soo Compete, Inner City Press Is Told


By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- A currently open top UN job is Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, under US Jeffrey Feltman. Inner City Press is exclusively informed that competing for the post are Kim Won-soo, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's long time senior advisor, and Russia's Dmitry Titov.

   Inner City Press, always greeting Mister Kim in the hall and on January 29 in the River Club reception thrown by Chile's UN Mission, is informed that Kim would like to follow Ban back to South Korea as a possible foreign minister, but wants to re-establish his profile for that.

  On the other hand, of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, Russia may have the fewest UN posts. France owns UN Peacekeeping, the fourth in a row being Herve Ladsous who refuses all Press questions. Videos herehere (Jan 22) and here (Vine).

 China has DESA -- but, we hear, still has a candidate for ASG of DPA;  the US had DPA through Feltman. The UK may be losing Humanitarian Affairs - click here for Inner City Press' latest exclusive on that -- but then reaches out for the top envoy post in Iraq. But Russia?

  Another way to view it is, the UN Secretariat's one-sidedness on Ukarine, between US Feltman and Croatian Ivan Simonovic, left the UN on the sidelines on the Ukraine issue. Could Titov as the number two in DPA turn that around? It could. Watch this site.

 
  

Exclusive: In OCHA Race, UK Cameron Said "Rude" to Ban Ki-moon, MP Caroline Spelman Eyed, Mladenov's Future


By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Follow Up
UNITED NATIONS, January 30, more hereVideo I here-- Minutes after the UN announced on November 26  the departure of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs chief Baroness Valerie Amos, Inner City Pressasked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq if the vacancy would be advertised for candidates from all countries, or if it is set aside for Amos' United Kingdom.
  On January 30 Inner City Press was reliable informed that UK Prime Minister David Cameron telephoned Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and said -- "rudely," according to denizens of the UN's 38th floor -- that despite the UK's submission of two additional names, below, Ban "must" pick Andrew Lansley.
  These sources say that Ban, as if to prove independence, will NOT choose Lansley but will keep the post UK, choosing on a progressive basis the female candidate,Caroline Spelman.
 But as Inner City Press exclusive reported on January 26, it appears the UK may be preparing itself -- unsuccessfully so far -- for the real possibility of entirely losing the OCHA post. Multiple sources on January 26 told Inner City Press that the UK has sought to take over the Iraq UN Special Representative of the Secretary General post currently held by Nickolay Mladenov. 
  (Inner City Press already knows where Mladenov is slated to go, to a post whose holder has surpassed Ban Ki-moon's stated five year rule, but for now is sworn to withhold the information. Watch this site.)
  The nomination to replace Mladenov was interpreted as related to the UK seeing the OCHA post going to another candidate, whether from Germany (Martin Kobler), Italy, the UAE or elsewhere.
  But, sources on the UN's 38th floor tell Inner City Press, the answer to the UK successor to Mladenov in Iraq has been "no."
 Inner City Press asked the UK mission for comment on both -- "the UK proposed nominee to succeed Nickolay Mladenov as SRSG in Iraq / UNAMI, and separately how this might be related to the competition to replace Valerie Amos atop OCHA" -- and had been told "Senior appointments are subject to open competition and are the decision of the Secretary-General."
  Inner City Press is informed by multiple sources that it was directly to the Secretary General's office on the 38th floor that the kibosh was put on UK nominee for UNAMI in Iraq.
 (Another no: On January 16, Inner City Press asked, will the aid groups OCHA works with play any role in the review? Video II here.)
  Back on January 9, Inner City Press exclusively reported that the UK after first submitting only the name of Andrew Lansley has added too more, scarcely more qualified. 
   And, significantly, the Italy had nominated Emma Bonino, sources exclusively told Inner City Press, and Germany nominated Martin Kobler, currently the head of the UN's Mission in the Congo.
  On January 14, Inner City Press was informed by sources of another candidate, a minister from the United Arab Emirates, Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, a member of the ruling family of Sharjah. The UAE has, it is noted,, the "Humanitarian City." And the UAE did give $1 million to OCHA's CERF last month.
   Bonino is well regarded in international circles -- one source said she is "too strong a character" for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to choose, another notes, sadly, health concerns -- and Kobler after Iraq has his experience in the Congo, for better and worse. Either is more experience than the UK troika.
  Beyond Lansley, whose qualification is a brief visit to UN health conferences, the other UK candidates sources tell Inner City Press are Caroline Spelman and Stephen O'Brien.  
  On January 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video heretranscript here:
Inner City Press: On the OCHA recruitment process to find the new person, I've been informed that the UK has submitted two additional names to make a total of three, that Italy, Germany and UAE have also put forward names and I'm sure others.  So, is it a wide open process?  Have other countries submitted more than one?  Is it still a matter of looking, giving in the first instance a look to the UK of those three names? What of the request by a number of highly respected humanitarian NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that the inter-agency standing committee, i.e. these NGOs that are outside of the UN system, be given some role in the review process?  And I wanted to know what’s the response of the Secretary to that request.

Spokesman Dujarric: Obviously, the recruitment process has been to get the best possible person.  Not for the first time, you seem to have more information than I do.  I have to say, we will not go into the details of the recruitment process.  As we said earlier, a call went out for names, for candidates.  A recruitment process is ongoing but the Secretary-General is solely responsible and it is being done under his authority.

Inner City Press:  In previous cases, even when there's no short list given out, there's a review panel, and I guess the request… since it's been made semi-publicly in a petition, especially for a job that involves providing aid in conjunction with NGOs all over the world--

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the Secretary-General and his senior staff are well aware of what the job implies.  And one could argue that every senior job in the UN involves working with outside partners.  The recruitment is being handled by the Secretary-General and his staff.
 
  So... no. Another no.
  Could the UK really lose this Under Secretary General post? It's looking more likely. If Kobler were chosen, would fellow German Angela Kane have to leave? We'll have more on this.


 
  

On DR Congo, After MONUSCO Misstates Role on FDLR, Reuters Misrepresents UN, Ladsous and Human Rights


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- The UN has been dissembling about its role in the Congolese Army's stated attempt to "neutralize" the FDLR.  Inner City Press on January 30 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:
Inner City Press: Since it's UN Social Media Day, MONUSCO 46 minutes ago said that — I'll say it in French: Les operations militaires contre les #FDLR, lancées hier jeudi, seront dirigées et planifiées conjointement par la #MONUSCO et les FARDC.  So unless I'm misunderstanding this, they're claiming that it's a joint operation, “conjointement”, on their Twitter feed.  I wanted to know, why would they be doing that, given what you've just said?

Spokesman:  I think without going into a deep analysis of French and English, which you obviously are able to do and I couldn't try to keep up with you, I think it is a different characterization maybe, a different use of words, but I think the point is that it's an FARDC-led operation with the support of the UN.

  Now Reuters, claiming an exclusive, has again misrepresented the UN's and Herve Ladsous' (non) enforcement of the human rights due diligence policy. The anonymously trolling Reuters correspondent -- reviving that on January 26, after Reuters' Stephen J. Adler et al were told but did nothing -- "reports" that 
"The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo threatened in 2013 to withdraw support for two Congolese battalions accused of involvement in the mass rape. The mission decided to keep working with the battalions after 12 senior officers, including the commanders and deputy commanders, were suspended and about a dozen soldiers were charged over the rapes in Minova."
  This is propaganda -- only two lower ranking soldiers were convicted. The Reuters implication is that Ladsous' DPKO is tough on human rights: false.
  On January 22  Ladsous made a speech about freedom of the press in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Thursday to the US Security Council, and made excuses for not acting to “neutralize” the Hutu FDLR rebels as the UN did the largely Tutsi M23. 
Then Ladsous came to the Security Council stakeout, ostensibly to take questions.
  Inner City Press asked, “On the neutralization of the FDLR, what is the hold up?”
  Ladsous said "I don't respond to your questions, Mister." Video hereand embedded below.
   Then Ladsous turned and gave the question to Reuters, the same trolling correspondent. When that back and forth was over, Inner City Press asked if any of the countries in the UN's Force Intervention Brigade are well than willing to attack the FDLR, as senior diplomats at the UN have told Inner City Press.
   Ladsous refused to answer this question, and gestured that Ban Ki-moon's envoy to the DRC Martin Kobler, standing behind Ladsous at the stakeout, shouldn't answer it either. Reuters took or was given another question, distancing the FDLR from genocide.

   Finally Inner City Press asked both men what if anything UN Peacekeeping has done as the Kabila government has frozen the accounts of the Panzi hospital for rape victims.  Ladsous waved this off -- for months he waved off Press questions about mass rape in Minova by his partners in the Congolese Army, video here -- and walked away with this spokesman. 
 (One can only imagine the advise this “communications professional” is giving Ladsous. Perhaps he can help Ladsous address his history with Hutu groups as evidence in this memo. These are Press questions.)
   Kobler to his credit told Inner City Press he would come back and answer, and he did, albeit only some, and off camera. That will be another story. Because the story here is, how can a person in charge of UN Peacekeeping be allowed to refuse particular media's questions in this way? While, in classic UN fashion, giving a speech about freedom of the press, elsewhere? The weakness of current UN leadership comes to mind.
  But as many ask, WHY does Ladsous refuse to answer Inner City Press? While he has refused to answer that, too, it began when Inner City Press reported that Ladsous was not even France's first choice for the position - Jerome Bonnafont was.
   Tellingly, an Agence France Presse member of the Executive Committee of the so-called UN Correspondents Association complainedabout this Inner City Press story, and soon the Executive Committee of UNCA, under then and now president Giampaolo Pioli, made more complaint about that story, and another about Sri Lanka, demanding it be removed from the Internet.
   Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access, which demands that all UN Under Secretaries General answer questions. UNCA, for course, has said nothing about Ladsous' refusal. It is the UN's Censorship Alliance. More on this -- including video -- to follow.


 
  

Amid #SocialUN, Ban Ki-moon Silent on #FreeZone9Bloggers, Panelists Answer FUNCA


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- When the UN held a “Social Media Summit” on January 30, it concluded with a panel about trends, from mobile to analytics to video and Facebook's acquisition of Snapchat. 
  But what about the UN defending or at least speaking up for freedom of expression on the Internet?
  Earlier on January 30, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric why Ban while in Ethiopia for the African Union summit had not raised the terrorism charges brought against the Zone 9 Bloggers.Video here.
   Dujarric said Ban has spoken elsewhere about freedom of expression in Africa, and that the (other) contents of his AU speech were interesting. 
   So Inner City Press went to the #SocialUN final panel and asked, does the UN do enough to speak up for freedom in social media? One of the panelists had just finished praising high tech in Qatar. What about arrests for insulting the leader? What about Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain?
  Panelist Hayes Brown of BuzzFeed, who advised and practices Be a Person on Twitter, including baking and (good) jokes, said it is hard for the UN, since it has member states that pay its bills. He said he agreed about bloggers in Ethiopia but wasn't sure what the UN could do, beyond speaking up.
  Well, as to the Zone 9 Bloggers, the UN has yet to speak up. That would be a start.
  Panelist Liz Borod Wight, who moderator Sree Sreenivasan marveled is paid to do Instagram for the BBC, cites those who tweeted #JeSuisCharlie and said those who have freedom of expression should use it.
  Panelist Adam Glenn from CUNY Journalism School said, hoping not to offend the hosts the UN, that the UN should ensure that all of its staff have training and can tweet.
  Inner City Press and FUNCA note, for example, that a UN staffer in South Sudan abruptly stopped tweeting after she tweeted this: "#breaking Lou Nuer youth are mobilising in big numbers leaving #Akobo town empty heading towards Dengjok #Southsudan."
   As Inner City Press reported at the time, after Mathilde Kaalund-Jørgensen raised this alarm, the tweet and her Twitter account profile both disappeared. So much for Rights Up Front.
  At the end of the panel a UN staffer took the floor to acknowledge that UN staff cannot tweet what they think. But can't Ban Ki-moon say what he thinks? Or doesn't he think it? We'll have more on this.
    

At UN, Possible "Protection of Press" Paragraph in May, Undermined by UN Censorship Alliance


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- At the UN, transparency and access are in decline, due to collusion. In a telling dysfunction, UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous on January 22 openly refused to answer Press questions, video here.

  "Leadership" of the UN Correspondents Association, far from questioning this, took advantage by grabbing two questions, just as UNCA demands and most often wastes side-aside first questions at UN press conferences.

  Now UNCA -- the UN's Censorship Alliance -- is bragging that it has been reached out to by Lithuania's Mission to the UN, months before Lithuania's May Security Council presidency, if UNCA could "contribute" an already existing paragraph to a possible resolution on protection of the media.

  The old and new head of UNCA, who tried to get the investigative Press thrown out, brags that he'll take four or five members -- which? -- to meet with Lithuania. We'll have more on this: there's a history here. The day to day work is about access to information, not bragging about insider access.

  On January 23, there was a UN Security Council meeting about human rights and UN Peacekeeping missions, including MONUSCO. But the meeting was closed to the public and press. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked and asks, Why? The old United Nations Correspondents Association, on the other hand, not only doesn't protest such closures - it scheduled its only "faux fighters" meeting for exactly the same time.

  This decayed UN Correspondents Association, run by president Giampaolo Pioli who has himself demanded censorship, held its annual meeting on January 23, and even by its own account, not a work about access problems or lack of information.


Here was the agenda, annotated, now with "minutes" as provided by disgruntled members who say the UN "makes" them pay UNCA, added in italics:
Space, "including journalists on the waiting list for office space" -- on January 23, UNCA's "leadership" said that "that after meeting with DPI working space on the 4th floor will become available to 6-8 journalists beginning in February."
  Even or especially if this representation is true, there is a problem: UNCA is essentially selling or trying to sell these UN spaces. UNCA tells correspondents that if they pay money to join it, they will be helped in getting office space from the UN. Is this proper?
Less than a quarter of those UNCA took $66,485 from attended this meeting; numerous Executive Committee members did not attend. Pioli bragged of "a larger number of sponsors," but the minutes did not list them. There'll be more on this.
  Meanwhile, UNCA leadership is proposal to downgrade some with "white" UN passed to "green," requiring them to go through a separate entrance and metal detectors. UNCA is responsible for Banning many from entry into the UN.
"UNCA room activities, press conferences and events for 2015" -- Pioli in his last tenure granted the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Palitha Kohona, a former tenant of Pioli in one of his Manhattan apartments, the use of UNCA to screen inside the UN a film denying Rajapaksa government war crimes. It was reporting about this that Pioli ordered Inner City Press to remove from the Internet. There have been no reforms since. 
  Now UNCA brags that HRW will use or be used by its space. This is shameful - and we'll have more on it. Pioli sat in on the January 26 noon briefing, apparently to see if any of these outrages would be aired, typically asking no questions at all. 
"Social media" - despite Ban's UN purporting to use UNCA to reach all journalists at the UN, the Press is blocked from UNCA's moribund social media presence. Is this attributable to all 15 Executive Committee members? Just Pioli?
 On January 23, Pioli said that the Reuters correspondent who grabbed two questions after Ladsous said "I don't respond to your questions Mister" is in charge of UNCA tweets. 
"UNCA soccer" - this involved providing a craven photo op for, yes, Ban Ki-moon
"UNCA Awards 2015" - in December 2014, UNCA gave out an award about Haiti with no mention of the UN bringing cholera there, or UN peacekeepers shooting at democracy demonstrators. Ban Ki-moon was in attendance and they had him take pictures with another of their awardees, which was mischaracterized as  UN award. As with office space, it seems that UNCA sells the UN.
   Similar to the claim that UN labor issues are handed in happy one-way meeting with staff during country visits, it is with this that it seems the UN will partner to say it has listened on media access issues.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has told MALU, but repeats: if they even aspire to legitimacy, the UN and those in it must reach out to all journalists, at the UN and ideally beyond, and not that subset which pay UNCA money. On January 30, there was an expression "will try." Well, efforts at access are (more than) half of the battle.
  
   The French-only briefing was described on HuffPost Live, here.)
Footnote: as noted the old UN Correspondents Association, which is given privileged status and set-aside first questions nearly always used for softballs, has done nothing in recent years to improve or even defend press access. In fact, members of UNCA's Executive Committee have tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, and there have been no reforms since. It's become the UN's Censorship Alliance. They provide Ban Ki-moon with photo ops playing soccer with them. This is today's UN - and FUNCA is fighting to hold the UN to its stated principles.


 
  

Q&A: Ukraine's Sergeyev Tells Inner City Press IMF Late February, Greece's Syriza to Visit Kiev, Justifies Pension Restrictions


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- On January 23 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke, belatedly, on pension and travel restrictions imposed by the authorities in Kiev.

  On January 30, Inner City Press asked Ukrainian Permanent Representative to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev about the OHCHR and UN High Commissioner for Refugees' criticisms, about Kiev's requests to the International Monetary Fund and its relationship with the Syriza party in Greece.

  Sergeyev started with this last, saying he understands Syriza has changed its position and will be visiting Kiev. Sergeyev referred to maintaining EU "solidarity." On the IMF, he said Ukraine's new Finance Minister has predicted the country will receive a new tranche from the IMF by the end of February.

  On pensions, Sergeyev said they were cut off because money cannot be delivered into zones not under government control; he said pensioners can receive their money if they leave the zone. But aren't there restrictions?

 On January 23 the OHCHR on pension and benefit payments, on which Inner City Press has reported on since November, said 
"the impact on civilians of the recent decision by the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine to restrict movement in and out of the areas controlled by armed groups. As of 21 January, people traveling to and from these areas need to obtain special passes and provide documents to justify the need to travel. These limitations are worrying, especially in light of the escalating hostilities. It adds to concerns created by the Government decision in November 2014 to discontinue providing State services in the territories controlled by armed groups. The introduction of such restrictions will likely have a severe effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as older people, mothers with children and people with disabilities who may depend heavily on social benefits. We urge Ukrainian authorities to take immediate steps to redress this situation."
  But will they? UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, added on January 23 that
  “New security clearance procedures are put in place and specific documentation is now required to pass through checkpoints in the east of Ukraine. These new procedures apply to Ukrainian nationals, the United Nations, NGOs, national and some other international humanitarian organizations.
   “These restrictions on movements within Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east of the country further complicates an already difficult situation for those forcibly displaced and made worse by the intensified fighting we have seen in recent days,” the UNHCR briefing notes said. “These practices restrict access to non-government controlled areas and limit the delivery of needed humanitarian assistance into the conflict zones. The Ukrainian government has reportedly adopted this resolution which entered into force yesterday (Thursday 22 January) limiting all movements in and out of the conflict zones."
   Christine Lagarde has announced that "the Ukrainian authorities have requested a multi-year arrangement with the Fund, supported by the Extended Fund Facility, to replace the existing Stand-By Arrangement."
   Back on November 12, UN Assistant Secretary General Jens Toyberg-Frandzen said, among other things, that "on November 5, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that pensions would be halted to areas under rebel control."
  Inner City Press, covering the meeting from just outside the Council chamber, spoke to a range of passing diplomats and was left with this question: isn't the halting of pensions to rebel held areas a form of collective punishment?
 Once posed, with the words "accrued pensions," two defenses of the practice came in. First, that pensions in Ukraine are not accrued but are based on taxes collected and none are being collected in Donbas. Second, that trucks with pension payments were being robbed.  The word "Western Union" was bandied around.
 And so it goes at the UN.
  Last October, Ukraine was scheduled to speak at the UN about its “Committee on Information” on October 21, but as UN speeches usually go longer than allowed, its turn was postponed until October 22.
That didn't stop the “UN Radio” Russian service from reporting on the speech on October 21 as if it had in fact been given that day. As translated, UN Radio on October 21 reported
The representative of Ukraine accused Russia of using the information strategy of the Cold War
One of the main prerequisites of violence in Ukraine became a propaganda information. This was stated by the representative of the Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaking at a meeting of the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly.”
  The UN's Fourth Committee did meet on October 21 - but Ukraine didn't speak. Instead it was the first speaker on the afternoon of October 22. Its speech, delivered in perfect French including the word “rigolo,” linked Russia to Joseph Goebbels.
  In reply, the Russian mission's spokesman brought up the recent Human Rights Watch report of the Ukrainian government using cluster bombs in and against Donetsk, and the lack of clarity on who called the snipers shots in Maidan Square.
  Later in the Fourth Committee meeting, Bolivia slammed “powers” who use information technology to intervene and violate privacy, bringing to mind USAID's “Cuban Twitter” and, of course, the NSA.
  Then Jordan said it was first among Arab nations to enact an Access to Information law, in 2007. The Free UN Coalition for Access has been pressing for a Freedom of Information Act at the UN, click here and here for that.
  FUNCA covers the Fourth Committee, including on Decolonization, and the Committee on Information, where at least theoretically the UN's descent into censorship could be raised and resolved. The old UN Correspondents Association, a part of this trend toward privatization of briefings and even censorship -- ordering Press articles off the Internet, getting leaked copies of their complaints to the UN's MALU banned from Google's search, here -- was nowhere to be seen. We'll have more on this.

 
  

UN's NGO Committee Dominated by Sudan, Later US Speaks, Then Sycophants to Power


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- The UN's Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on Janary 29 was dominated by Sudan and Mauritania, Cuba and Nicaragua. Led by Sudan, questions were directed at NGOs like Shi'a Rights Watch and the International Association of Independent Journalists. Inner City Press as before covered the Committee's back and forth, here and here.

The United States spoke up on the former, not the latter. At 6 pm the meeting abruptly ended, with the scheduling of a closed door session for 9:30 am on January 30 about the Committee's “work methods.”

  After that, US Ambassador Samantha Power, speaking by Twitter, said “very concerning initiative in NGO Committee to prevent UN from publicly reporting what member states say about NGO's seeking accreditation.... In an era of global crackdown on civil society, the UN's NGO Committee must set the example for openness & transparency. RT if you agree.”

  Among the re-tweeters was the UN Correspondents Association, a group that decided does not support the rights in independent journalists, having tried for example to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, see here and here and here (UK Guardian here). This led to the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which presses for increased access to the UN.

 The feed of UNCA, more properly known as the UN's Censorship Alliance, is in fact run by censors, here. They didn't even cover the NGO Committee, only playing sycophant to Power after the fact. And so it goes at the UN. Watch this site.

Footnotes: the day before in the UN's NGO Committee the proposal was made to proceed, in meetings making up for those cancelled by snow, without interpretation. Cuba and Nicaragua objected, as others were sure to. We'll see.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chile's UN Security Council Month Had 7 Stakeouts, Haiti Trip Without Cholera Accountability, No Palestine Resolution


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- When Chile's Ambassador Cristián Barros Melet held a January 5 press conference on the month's Program of Work of the UN Security Council, Inner City Press asked him about a next Palestine resolution, about rapes and expulsions in Sudan and, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access to hold as many question and answer stakeouts as possible.

  Twenty four days later, when Chile held its End of Presidency reception just north of the UN at the River Club, there was still no Palestine resolution -- no fault of Chile, whose Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz mid-month explained the country's support of, and embassy in, Palestine.

  The mass rapes in Tabit in Darfur had yet to be followed up on by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, whose chief Herve Ladsous refused Press questions, here, unlike Barros.

 On the rapes, the Ambassadors of the UK and Lithuania replied to Inner City Press that they are raising the issue to DPKO, in consultations. Will this bear fruit in February?
  Barros himself held six stakeouts, each time agreeing to take questions even if slightly off camera; Heraldo Munoz held another on January 15, for a Chilean total of seven.
 There were two meetings on Ukraine, and one on Lebanon which a full day later had yet to produce even a press statement. One Ambassador at the end of presidency reception complained to Inner City Press that the killing of peacekeepers should always result in such a Statement, "no matter who is responsible."
 Because we have reviewed other End of Presidency reception, we'll review this one, complete with ceviche on plantains, sliders and one of Ladsous' predecessors, Jean-Marie Guehenno. He was once quoted urging the UN to do more about cholera in Haiti - the failure to raise this issue during the Council's visit to Port au Prince and Cap Haitien is still to be explained.
 There are not enough media questions like this; the head of the old UN Correspondents Association, unquestioning receptor, was seen hailing a taxi for the less than ten block trip to the River Club. What's next, an UNCA faux UN briefing on climate change? But that's another story. For now, hats off to Chile, from which we hope to hear more throughout this year.

 
  

On Ethiopia Versus Zone 9 Bloggers, US Worried, But UN Tells Free UN Coalition for Access It Is UNaware


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- The attack on Ethiopia's Zone 9 bloggers, which Inner City Press covered in late April, now has Ethiopia moving forward with a trial against them.

 On January 29 Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked the UN Spokesman

Inner City Press: "about press restrictions in Ethiopia, journalists are denied entry visas, there are restrictions on what could be published.  Does the UN believe that the coverage of the summit and of its operations in Ethiopia are impacted by the restrictions on the Internet and the press there?  Thanks."

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't have any details on Ethiopia, but obviously, our principled stand is for freedom of the press and to allow journalists to do their work and obviously a free and accessible Internet is critical to that.  I'm not aware of any impact on the AU [African Union] summit.

  Later on January 29, the US State Department spokesperson said
"The United States is concerned by the Ethiopian Federal High Court’s January 28, 2015, decision to proceed with the trial of six bloggers and three independent journalists on charges under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.  The decision undermines a free and open media environment—critical elements for credible and democratic elections, which Ethiopia will hold in May 2015.

"We urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent, and in compliance with Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees and international human rights obligations.  We also urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is free of political influence and continues to be open to public observation.

"The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in previous cases against journalists, activists, and opposition political figures raises serious questions about the implementation of the law and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

"Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental elements of a democratic society.  We call on the government of Ethiopia to support freedom of expression and freedom of the press to demonstrate its commitment to democracy as it approaches its May 2015 national elections. "
  The UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon has after pressure condemned just this in Egypt. But when Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about the terrorism charges on July 18, at first there was no comment at all. 
  Then the UN Spokesperson's Office sent Inner City Press a link to a statement by Navi Pillay -- from May 2. Nothing since?
  Now later on July 18, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has said:
The United States is deeply concerned by the Ethiopian Federal High Court’s July 18 decision to press charges against six bloggers and three independent journalists under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

We urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent, and in compliance with Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees and international human rights obligations.  We also urge the Ethiopian government to ensure that the trial is open to public observation and free of political influence.

We reiterate Secretary Kerry’s May 1 call on Ethiopia to refrain from using anti-terrorism laws as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas.  The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in previous cases against journalists, activists, and opposition political figures raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law, and about the sanctity of Ethiopians' constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental elections of a democratic society. The arrest of journalists and bloggers, and their prosecution under terrorism laws, has a chilling effect on the media and all Ethiopians’ right to freedom of expression.
 Now will Ban's UN say something? Watch this site."
 Previously we asked, after US-based Twitter has suspended Natnail Feleke's account, what would the US say? Did Twitter give in to Ethiopia, as it has been doing in Turkey, where Ergodan has also claimed it have "copyrights" his own leaked phone calls
  This recalls an anti-Press complaint to the UN now being banned from Search by Google under a spurious US Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint, here. In the UN itself, a request has been made to have UNTV censor even cut-aways of opponents, click here for that. The newFree UN Coalition for Access is asking the UN and countries' diplomats at the UN about all this.
  Watch this site.
Footnote: Outright censorship as well as freedom of the press issues have arisen at the UN with respect to Voice of America, on whose Broadcasting Board of Governors John Kerry serves. Freedom of Information Act requests have been filed with the BBG - and with the State Department, including with regard to South Sudan and the US Atrocities Prevention Board. The issues are being pursued by the new Free UN Coalition for Access. Watch this site.