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Request for UN to Dis-Accredit Inner City Press Filed by UNCA Officer VOA, Big Media & Lanka Roots

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- The UN has received, but not disclosed to Inner City Press, a formal request from one of the Big Media officers of the UN Correspondents Association to have its Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit "review Mr. Lee's status as an accredited U.N. correspondent."

  This confirms the Press exclusion goals of the "Board of Examination" process initiated by Reuters' Louis Charbonneau, Agence France Presse' Timothy Witcher, Bloomberg's Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Al-Arabia's Talal Al-Haj and Margaret Besheer of Voice of America, which formally filed the complaint.

  Ironically, in terms of freedom of speech and of the press, VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch on the very day that The Guardian (UK) mocked the UNCA process as one based on big media attempt to crush and exclude a smaller competitor which repeatedly scoops them, says Inner City Press "lacks proper judgment."

  The day before, Redisch and VOA were notified of other coverage of the free press controversy. Perhaps VOA views some American media as "harassing." Or did Redisch only go forward with the complaint after conferring with his UN interlocutor, Stephane Dujarric de la Riviere, the head of the UN's News & Media Division, formerly Kofi Annan's spokesman?

   The complaint states that Inner City Press is somehow making it difficult for Besheer and unnamed colleagues to report from the UN what they see and know. But she and they rarely go to the UN's noon briefings.

  Wednesday none of them came to cover, as Inner City Press did, the Security Council's meetings on Myanmar and Guinea Bissau, or the Chinese presidency's stakeout (which some mis-reported without even being there.)

   Redisch complains of e-mails Inner City Press sent to him and three other VOA editors, noting that Besheer made unauthorized uncredited use of information Inner City Press had exclusively reported.

 Like learning of VOA's complaint, just since Friday June 15 Inner City Press has exclusively obtained and reported on that day's notice to the Security Council that the Mission in Syria would limits mobile activities, and a whisteblower's letter against UN Security management that Ban's spokesman dodged, but Under Secretary General Starr felt a need to respond to, here.

  But VOA, rather than respond as requested with a copy of its current policy and how they applied -- Inner City Press' email had cited VOA Khmer policies -- Redisch throws the weight of the US government, which pays for VOA, against a small investigative press which exposes UN corruption.

  Ironically, Inner City Press' e-mails to VOA had cautioned the government funded "news" agency to comply with the First Amendment.

   VOA is part of an anti-Press campaign in this regard. Inner City Press sent similar e-mail requests to Reuters' Stephen J. Adler and his "ethics" team, and to Bloomberg's Matthew Winkler.

  The one difference is that only VOA responded, on June 5 via Managing Editor Sonja Pace with a copy to Redisch, saying

"I will want to get details on the issue you cite in your note.  Our UN correspondent, Margaret Besheer is on leave until later this week.. As for the items you highlighted in your note regarding VOA’s Charter and Code.  We absolutely stand by those mandates and guidelines, without exception."

 (Besheer was in London, tweeting about the UK Royals; on June 18, Inner City Press' UN coverage was called "comprehensive" by Foreign Policy magazine in naming @InnerCityPress one of the "Twitterati 100," one of three at "Turtle Bay" or the UN.)

   But VOA never did follow up or request any more information, or provide its policies, though Inner City Press sent updates. As with UNCA, call it entrapment.

   Reuters' Charbonneau filed a complaint with the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, sending copies to Besheer, Witcher and UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli but never telling Inner City Press.

   Pioli demanded the removal from the Internet of a factual story by Inner City Press, that he rented his apartment to Palitha Kohona when Kohona was a UN official, then when Kohona became Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN granted Kohona's request to screen in the UN a government propaganda film denying war crimes, without asking other UNCA Executive Committee members like Inner City Press.

   Then Pioli threatened to have Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. He has demanded a blanket apology, and a commitment that Inner City Press' coverage will not "involve other UN correspondents" -- that is, dictating what and who can be covered.

  Pioli began, at Besheer's, Reuters, AFP's and Bloomberg's orchestrated request, a "Board of Examination" process which stirred up physical threats against Inner City Press, of which to wrote to VOA to make the US state media aware.

   Now VOA, whose Besheer serves as Pioli's Treasurer -- some wonder, does she collect rent? -- has explicitly asked for the UN"s Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit to "review Mr. Lee's status as an accredited U.N. correspondent."

  Earlier in this process, Inner City Press repeatedly asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople if journalists have a right to be informed of complaints filed against them with MALU, especially by competitors. No answer was ever given.

  More recently, after MALU reneged on its commitment to renew Inner City Press' accreditation on June 4 -- while it handed out four accreditations and re-accreditations to Reuters on June 1 -- Inner City Press asked MALU to disclose to it complaints filed against it.

  This was never responded to; rather, Inner City Press signing into the UN as a guest the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman was used to charge Inner City Press with "misconduct, trying to use Inner City Press' YouTube video against it.

  Meanwhile on the night of June 20, the third of the five Examiners resigned, deciding that journalists should not judge journalists for their investigative coverage, and that mediation proved impossible, triggering this report.

   Pioli, VOA Besheer, Reuters' Charbonneau, AFP Witcher et al. however continue to replace resigned Examiners with less impartial friends of complainants, while now actively seeking to expel Inner City Press from the UN.

  Despite assurances that are ringing increasingly hollow, a formal request to dis-accredit Inner City Press has been filed, by a big media officer of the UN Correspondents Association. We'll have more on this: watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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