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Jun-04-2012 01:30printcomments

As UNCA Pushes Anti-Press Move, Sri Lanka Says ICP Faces Jail

Mainstream press and the UN pull a u-turn on media freedom.

Matthew Russell Lee
Matthew Russell Lee

(UNITED NATIONS) - As UN Correspondents Association officials Giampaolo Pioli and Lou Charbonneau of Reuters have proceeded against Inner City Press, they were told that their campaign could set anti media freedom precedents.

Now, it has. Today a major pro-government newspaper in Sri Lanka, the Sunday Observer, quotes with approval the indictment drafted by Reuters' Charbonneau against Inner City Press.

The newspaper says that "if the allegations against Lee are proven, the UN headquarters will be made out of bounds for him. If the harassment charges are proven he could face a jail term of up to six years." Click here to view the full article.

Pioli, assisted by Reuters' Charbonneau and other corporate media which have used without credit Inner City Press' exclusive stories about the UN then retaliated when Inner City Press complained, has pursued a public witch hunt against Inner City Press. Click here for sample UNCA minutes released only tonight from behind Reuters' firewall.

This has included mass e-mailing out the "charge letter" quoted by the pro-government Sunday Observer. The letter was signed by Charbonneau, Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia, Margaret Besheer of Voice of America and Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse.

Witcher, at the behest of the French Mission to the UN, began the push against Inner City Press for its reporting on French UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who has accepted Sri Lankan general (and alleged war criminal) Shavendra Silva as a Senior Adviser.

Despite France's claim to support press freedom, not only has its Mission to UN sought to eject Inner City Press and even (unsuccessfully) to have it temporarily arrested. Now, the campaign they have pushed has created an environment in which political enemies can call for the Press to be jailed for six full years.

Al-Arabiya is funded and controlled by Saudi Arabia, so its increasing involvement in this anti free Press campaign is perhaps not surprising. But that Voice of America, using US taxpayer dollars, would be one of five leaders of an anti Press campaign triggering such a threat is, we hear, becoming a matter of concern to some on Capitol Hill.

Matthew Winkler of Bloomberg News has yet to respond to submitted questions the propriety of his UN bureau chief's involvement. As noted, there has been no response to two rounds of e-mails to Reuters "Ethics & Training" chief Greg McCune, Top News Editor Walden Siew, deputy editor Paul Ingrassia and big cheese Stephen J. Adler.

The only Reuters response on this has been Reuters UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau saying on June 1, before he voted to investigate Inner City Press and sent out the selective minutes, "you are a bad person."

At Voice of America, before this executives David Ensor, Sonja Pace, David Jones and Steve Redisch were all told of the attacks and were asked to stop them, or least formally disassociate VoA UN bureau chief Margaret Besheer from these efforts resulting in governmental gloating about the possibility of jailing the Press.

Before the publication of the pro government Sunday Observer's report about exclusion from the UN and jail time, Inner City Press asked the UNCA Executive Committee to desist or at least slow down, because it has "been the subject of extremely negative, unfair, entirely unfounded coverage in for example the Sri Lankan press."

But the UNCA Executive Committee has doggedly proceeded, going more and more public even with material they wree told in advance, and acknowledged, was incomplete if not outright inaccurate.

Since the origin of these disputes, UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli has repeatedly demanded that Inner City Press remove from the Internet its factual report that Pioli accepted money for rent from Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN.

Pioli in an angry telephone call threatened to have Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, an ejection now positively viewed by pro government media in Sri Lanka.

This calls into question not only the negligent management of Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, Al-Arabiya and Voice of America, but also WHO is the source of the threats cited in the pro Sri Lanka government Sunday Observer.

If the Pioli proposed UNCA Board of Examination goes forward even now, it should investigate all of UNCA officials' communications with Palitha Kohona and other alleged war criminal. Watch this site.

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Sri June 5, 2012 12:08 pm (Pacific time)

What's the world coming to when evil gets the upper hand? It needs to be exposed!Viva free press.

dudean walker June 5, 2012 3:25 am (Pacific time)

Freedom of media is not to be censored by any one, Sri lanka's regime should ask themselves about their behaviour at the last U.N. sessions. Rajapaksa and co seem to have very powerful "friends"in the west still!

Saleem June 4, 2012 3:10 pm (Pacific time)

The Sunday Observer in a government run newspaper, which is much worse than being pro government. People who work in the Sunday Observer are government servants and cannot be neutral.

gb June 4, 2012 11:58 am (Pacific time)

It's about time Lee got his hand slapped!

Shun June 4, 2012 9:40 am (Pacific time)

This is ridiculous what is UN is turning in to, it recruited a war criminal SL silva as Sr adviser. Now it is going after freedom of speech. I wonder why we have evil regimes like Syria and Srilanka can kill children without any hesitation.

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