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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

OK, the UN has no power to put people in jail – but it does have enough power to squish information channels. As we were not in the room – the UN restricts the participation of folks looking into its activities, we have to rely on the only truly free soul reporting from that meeting and about the atmosphere surrounding that meeting – that is we rely on the reporting by InnerCityPress.

Also, in order to toot our own horn, please refer also to previous articles on www.SustainabiiTank.info:

Japan Foreign Ministry Will Teach Senior Officials How To Handle Foreign Press. This Because It Sees Any Press As A Potential Tool To Disseminate The Government’s Information As A Tool Of A PR Office.
Monday, March 24th, 2008
Posted in Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Real World’s News, Japan |

The Washington DC Panel on the UN and Its Problematic Rapport With The Reporters For The Global Press: Reflections on The Way the UN Squashes Information – Occurrences That May Have Covered Corruption. And Who Asked Google To Take Matthew Off Google News? What Tripped Nicolas Michel?
Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Posted in Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Reporting from Washington DC, Real World’s News, Geneva, Vienna, New York |

But we will have also our own reporting as we went to the second day of this Committee’s meeting – we will update this posting accordingly.

Dissonance at UN Information Meeting, Bragging of Outreach While Web Sites Are Blocked

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 28, 2008 — What should be the role of the UN’s Department of Public Information? To provide truthful information and answers about the UN’s operations? Or to reflexively defend the Organization, and to produce documentaries about world problems that barely mention the UN, and certainly do not criticize it?

The UN’s Committee on Information met all day on Monday, but the above questions were not answered. While various of the speeches called for greater high-tech deployment by the UN, during the Algerian delegate’s speech, the audio system played heavy feedback. At Monday’s noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe about reports of viruses on the UN’s web site. An answer was inserted later into the transcript, that Inner City Pres was informed that

“there was a very minor breach on a relatively less used portion of the United Nations website (the United Nations events calendar). This was very quickly detected, contained and rectified. The incident is being analyzed in cooperation with the Information Technology Services Division.”

That unit is involved in blocking from view within the UN web sites such as “GlobalCompactCritics.net” and “DailyMotion.com,” as Inner City Press exclusively reported earlier this month. One of the listed participants, the spokeswoman for UNESCO, has twice declined to response to requests to comment on the UN’s own censorship, in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day on May 1. And on the viruses, outside (and independent) observers offer the free advise that all is not fixed, click here for that (and this —

un1patched.jpg
UN on the web, photo composite, GlobalCompactCritics.net not shown

There are many hard-working and well-meaning UN media workers. But other than in cliches, that work was not reflected in Monday’s Committee on Information meeting. A lengthy presentation was given about the UN’s Information Center in Mexico City, following which a delegate from a media-savvy country told Inner City Press, “That was a perfect example of how not to present information.” He seemed surprised to see any media coverage of the meeting. French spokesman Axel Cruau said, “You can quote me on this — finally for the first time the press shows an interest in the committee on information!” But the underlying topics, if not the presentations, are deserving of attention.

Can the UN look critically at itself? Inner City Press has asked this question with respect to a UN Television series called “21st Century,” about which it has been waiting for answers to written follow-up questions for a week. In a second and so far last response, DPI’s Susan Farkas defended that show as “using existing resources that were diverted from productions like the English-language talk show World Chronicle, which was attracting a miniscule audience.” Requests for actual viewership numbers have yet to be answered. Nor about other uses of money — but we’ll continue to wait to report on this.

The World Chronicle show, while low-tech, involved discussion at times of problems at and of the UN. 21st Century, on the other hand, even in covering the issue of rape in Haiti, did not mention that UN peacekeepers there have been accused of sexual abuse of under-aged girls. Perhaps such coverage is not the role of, or allowable by, DPI. But then how can its shows be labeled “accurate and balanced”? And since 21st Century itself shows dead bodies, some of them face-up, how could the UN’s DPI criticize independent journalists for making similar editorial decisions? Ms. Farkas to her credit has offered to sit down to discuss these issues — she said Monday was no good, due ironically to the Committee on Information meeting — and we will report more on them.

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