By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 7 — Amid attacks on opponents of Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka in the run-up to elections, now leading directly to at least one death, Inner City Press on January 7 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you this about the elections in Sri Lanka because the Secretary-General had earlier made this call to G.L. Peiris. Now, with the election right around the corner, one of the opposition supporters has now been killed. And I wanted to know, is he satisfied since this call that this election will be free and fair?
Spokesman Dujarric: I think… it’s not a question of the Secretary-General being satisfied. It’s a question of the Secretary-General continuing to reiterate his call to the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the elections go about in a peaceful manner and are fully inclusive.
Earlier on January 7, Ban Ki-moon lauded and attended a private event hosted by, yes, Sri Lankan ambassador Palitha Kohona’s former landlord. Inner City Press on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked Dujarric about the protocol for that event, too, story here.
Back on January 5, Inner City Press asked Dujarric why his office delayed the read-out of Ban’s December 24 call to minister GL Peiris until December 29. Video here.
The delay was not explained; Dujarric said that recent events, including today (January 5) make Ban’s call for reconciliation and political dialogue all the more important. Something wrong with this sequence: Ban makes a call, violence increases; his Office says his call is more important than ever.
On December 23 after Rajapaksa reiterated that he will not cooperate with the UN inquiry in to human rights and war crimes, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about that. Video here.
On December 29, Dujarric’s office put out this read-out of Ban’s calls to Peiris on December 24 — that is, the read out came five days after the call:
“The Secretary-General spoke on the phone with H.E. Mr. GL Peiris, Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka, on 24 December. The Secretary-General conveyed his strong expectation that the Government of Sri Lanka will ensure the peaceful and credible conduct of the Presidential Election on 8 January 2015. The Secretary-General also noted the importance of inclusive participation of all Sri Lankan voters, including from minority communities, in the election process without any fear. He reaffirmed the UN’s continuous support for reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability in Sri Lanka. “
We’ll see. Meanwhile the UN’s website for the inquiry says, “The call for submission is now ended. No further submission will be accepted.” Is this really Ban’s “Rights Up Front”?
When the UN’s Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng took questions on December 9, Inner City Press asked him if he considered what happened in Sri Lanka in 2009 (and before and after) to be genocide, and of the work of and reaction to the UN panel, see below.
Dieng said what happened in 2009 was a failure of the international community, with the killing of thousands “under our eyes.” Video here, and embedded below.
Dieng cited the UN’s Petrie report, and then Ban Ki-moon (who’d gone on a Rajapaksa sponsored victory tour of northern Sri Lanka in mid 2009) later establishing a “Rights Up Front” program.
(As Inner City Press points out, Ban has tellingly disconnected Rights Up Front from its roots of failure in Sri Lanka.)
As the belated investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka mandated by the UN Human Rights Council proceeds, new evidence concerning the “white flag killings” of surrendering Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam leaders has emerged.
A statement has been published in media censored by the Sri Lankan government that Shavendra Silva, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, was ordered by Defense Secretary and presidential brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa “not to accommodate any LTTE leaders attempting to surrender and informed that they all should be killed.” Full text below.
Killing those who are surrendering is a war crime. The LTTE leaders were lured out, to their deaths, by assurances delivered through the UN from Sri Lankan officials including its Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona.
Inner City Press has doggedly pursued the ramification of these White Flag killings and the wider Bloodbath on the Beach (initially here, in Johns Hopkins’ SAIS Review of International Affairs); below is a response to Inner City Press from Shavendra Silva. Tellingly, there has been censorship inside the UN itself.
Palitha Kohona and Shavendra Silva appeared on a three person “UN” panel with Giampaolo Pioli, past and future president of the United Nations Correspondents Association, to screen a film denying war crimes called “Lies Agreed To.” Photo below.
As Inner City Press reported, Pioli had a previous financial relationship with Kohona, having rented him one of his Manhattan apartments; for using the UN Correspondents Association to screen the Sri Lanka government war crimes denial inside the UN, Pioli did not seek prior approval of other UNCA Executive Committee members.
Inner City Press reported these facts, after pro-government media in Sri Lanka portrayed the screening inside the UN as a victory or even absolution. Immediately after that, Pioli convened a series of “emergency” UNCA Executive Committee meetings. Links to audio are below; here’s a sample story from The Guardian in the UK.
First, Pioli demanded that the article be removed from the Internet (he rejected the offer to submit a written response of the type Shavendra Silva submitted).
After Inner City Press refused to remove the entire article from the Internet, Pioli said he would get Inner City Press thrown out. Issues about the French mission to the UN were raised. Pioli’s First Vice President from Reuters filed a complaint with the UN’s Media Accreditation and Liaison unit, copied to Pioli (the Reuters bureau chief subsequently filed a sworn statement with Google to get this blocked from Search, claiming it was a private and even copyrighted communication, here.)
But Voice of America, which filed a formal request to the UN to “review” Inner City Press’ accreditation, is subject to the US Freedom of Information Act. After Pioli tried to get Inner City Press to withdraw the FOIA request it filed, Inner City Press obtain documents, many heavily redacted and some not yet reported, showing how the campaign to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN worked, including UNCA talking “quietly” with UN officials to bring it about.
We’ll have more on all this. But how can it be, as the belated investigation of Sri Lanka war crimes goes forward, that not only is Shavendra Silva still a Deputy Permanent Representative in the UN (Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Inner City Press that Silva being one of his advisers of Peacekeeping Operations was simply up to member states), but that this censor, Pioli, is slated in a classic no-competition “election” to come to head the UN Correspondents Association at least for 2015?
This is a new low at the UN. The new Free UN Coalition for Access, which seeks to hold the UN to its stated principles including defending the right to free press and investigative journalism in the UN, will now pursuing these issues.
Shavendra Silva, Giampaolo Pioli & Kohona in UN, UNCA banner, decay
Here is the new statement, as published, followed by Silva’s previous response, and background including audio clips
Date: 5/17/2009 Time: 11.45 am – 12.30pm
Place: Wellamulliwikkal, MLT Sri Lanka (58 Division Operations room)
When the instructions from Mr.Gotayabhaya Rajapaksha the Secretary Defence of Sri Lanka to the 58 Division Commander Brigadier Shavendra Silva (Now Major General) was passed down over the telephone I was with the Brigadier. I was functioning as one of the defence correspondents attached to 58 Division.
The conversation took place is as follows.
Time:11.45am 1st call.
Mr.Gotabayaya Rajapaksha to Brigadier Shavendra Silva
Ordered not to accommodate any LTTE leaders attempting to surrender and informed that they all should be killed.
Time: 12.00 noon. -2 nd call.
Mr.Gotabayaya Rajapaksha to Brigadier Shavendra Silva.
Mr. Rajapaksha confirmed his order to Brigadier Shavendra Silva and informed about the International influence the LTTE is trying to bring upon on the Government at that time.
There after at about 12.15pm the Division Commander Brigadier Shavendra Silva having summoned his Brigade Commanders and Commanding Officers briefed them on what Secretary Defence told him.
However I do not know whether the troops on ground carried out the above instructions or not .
After two days time on the 19th I called the Commander of the Army General Sarath Fonseka and asked whether he is aware about the above instructions given by Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksha. He said that he is not aware about such instructions.
If any international commission or any war crime court requests from me to give any evidence regarding this telephone conversation between Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksha and Brigidier Shavendra Silva on 17th May 2009 I am prepared to give a statement or an affidavit to them.
Shavendra Silva to Inner City Press:
What I said was, in the paragraph (90 of the POE page 25), never talks about the 58 Div shelling PTK hospital. After you read out loud the first part of the first line of paragraph 90 where you talked about 55 and 58 Div, where I replied that what is in the paragraph is incorrect as it was the 53 and 58 Divisions who were involved in PTK. and the 55 Div was not there. Thats why I told you at the briefing that the content of the paragraph in the POE is inaccurate. In fact, later after the briefing I told you that they were in Challai when you asked where that Division was.
Ambassador Major General Shavendra Silva WWV RWP RSP USP psc
Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
To the United Nations
Background and audio clips: Press access and answers to questions at the UN generally have been in decline since at least 2011. Now the newFree UN Coalition for Access is combating the trend, which can only be done by naming names and providing specifics, now including audio. And so these clips, in reverse chronological order.
In this audio clip, two days before formally beginning a process to try to get Inner City Press thrown out, Giampaolo Pioli as President of the United Nations Correspondents Association complains about Inner City Press reporting that he rented out of his Manhattan apartments to “Palitha” [Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN] in the context of Pioli unilaterally using UNCA to screen a Sri Lanka government war crimes denial movie inside the UN.
Two days later, Pioli would convene a UN Correspondents Association Excutive Committee meeting to “examine” Inner City Press and try to throw it out – first of UNCA, then of the UN at a whole. This is the Pioli slated to return, with no competition at all, to head what he made the UN’s Censorship Alliance.
In a previous audio clip, Pioli tried to dictate to Inner City Press how it should have covered Sri Lanka, suggesting it should simply transcribe what “Palitha” (Kohona) and Shavendra Silva said and not report that he, Pioli, had rented out of his Manhattan apartments to Kohona before agreeing to use UNCA to screen the Sri Lankan government’s war crimes denial film inside the UN.
“Why did you have to” report that? Pioli demanded, claiming the rental arrangement was significantly further in the past than it was.
When Inner City Press refused to remove the article from the Internet, and Pioli refused the offer to publish a letter to the editor, Pioli made good on his threat to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. Complaints were filed by Pioli’s first vice president from Reuters, who also used the Reuters servers for the campaign.
Now Pioli has reappeared, slated to re-take over the helm of UNCA, now the UN’s Censorship Alliance. Who will serve him last his past first vice president, a position current held by a representative of Turkish media? As to how correspondent Pioli owns so much real estate, there is a Turkish connection on which we will have more. The UN cannot be allow to further decay on press freedom and access. Watch this site.
In the last audio clip, Pioli as President of the UN Correspondents Association said of this Press story about him, “take it out” — that is, remove the entire story from the Internet — because it is false or, he then says, “basically false.”
But Pioli first complained that he still found online (audio) facts of which he admitted “nothing is false” — that before unilaterally deciding to screen a Sri Lankan government film denying war crimes he had rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN.
What was reported wasn’t false, but Pioli ordered “take it out” and off the Internet. That is censorship. One question is, why is Pioli now seeking to return as head of UNCA, which he turned into the UN Censorship Alliance?
The same clip has Pioli’s then Vice President, himself a censor, here, deriding Inner City Press as a blogger someone “using” UNCA. In fact, after seeing how it could be used for censorship, Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access.
On September 6, 2011 without consulting with other UNCA board members Pioli used the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium and UNCA’s now-debased logo to host a war crimes denial film by Sri Lanka’s government. Inner City Press reported on the event, here.
Numerous “emergency” UNCA meetings followed, including about Inner City Press’ coverage of Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping despite his role during the Rwanda genocide of 1994; there was an amateurish statement drafted by Pioli about ethics.
Then Pioli, supported by Agence France Presse, said that no dissent, no matter how short, could to appended to the statement. Audio clip here. AFP even said, send it out yourself – seemingly an invitation to write about the issue, which happened and led to threats to oust Inner City Press from the UN, which Voice of America requested saying it had thesupport of AFP and Reuters, which then tried a cover-up, here.
(There was was an even more free press unfriendly “apology” drafted by Pioli, as well as his UNCA stirring up death threats which have been ongoing — but that’s another story.)
The day of Pioli’s UNCA screening — without UNCA board approval or even notice — of Sri Lanka’s war crimes denial, attempts at outright censorship began.
Pioli had a financial relationship with Sri Lanka’s ambassador Palitha Kohona, renting Kohona one of Pioli’s Manhattan apartments. Inner City Press was told if it persisted in reporting this, Pioli would get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. Inner City Press offered to run a response by Pioli, of any length, but the demand was that the article be removed from the Internet in its entirety: pure censorship. This is UNCA’s past and seemingly future; watch for the next installment in this series —
Pioli on January 5 went to the UN noon briefing apparently only to try to brand it for the UNCA he’s used for censorship; we’ll have more on this.
Pioli & Ban Ki-moon, Sri Lanka war crimes denial not shown. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Pioli would go on to order that an article about his own conflict of interest regarding Sri Lanka be taken down from the Internet or he would get the Press thrown out of the UN.
So Pioli wants to ride again. After seeking the ouster of the investigative Press from the UN — promising to bring it about, and demanding the removal of articles from the Internet — he seeks to re-assume UNCA’s presidency, endorsed by his two-year figurehead fill-in, Pamela Falk. He is endorsing a slate of media that supported the ouster of the investigative Press, one of which then sought to censor even that, click here.
To show how far the UN has fallen, consider that Pioli in September 2011 wrote and proposed this statement for UNCA’s Executive Committee to issue:
“GiamPioli [at] aol.com; dear Colleagues, I propose to consider for a vote this statement but I am more than happy to discuss again
<IN RESPONSE TO CONCERNS WE WOULD LIKE TO REMIND UNCA MEMBERS THAT EVERYONE BELONGHING TO OUR ORGANIZATION IS EXPECTED TO MANTAIN PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS WHILE WORKING AT THE UN. THIS INCLUDE COMMON COURTESIES SUCH AS NOT USING PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS AMONG MEMBERS ON THE UN PRESS CORPS AS THE BASIS OF, OR CONFIRMING SORCES FOR, NEWS REPOERTS> UNCA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE”
That is Giampaoli Pioli, the once and future president of the UN’s Censorship Alliance. The above draft, by Pioli, was at the request ofAgence France Presse, after an inquiry by the French mission to the UN. AFP’s reporter wrote: “I am writing to you to request some kind of action by UNCA over a story published by Inner City Press on Friday which has caused serious damage to AFP. Inner City Press published a story about the new head of UN peacekeeping” — that would be, Herve Ladsous. We will have more on this.
Neither in 2011 and 2012 nor since has Pioli asked any critical questions at the UN, or pushed for greater access for journalists – quite the opposite. He rented one of his apartments to the ambassador of a country he later let screen a war crimes denial film in the UN under the sponsorship of UNCA, without even checking with other Executive Committee members much less recusing himself.
After Inner City Press reported on this, as later revealed by a Freedom of Information Act request to US state media Voice of America, “the lawyer’s at our UNCA president’s newspaper are preparing their libel lawsuit” against Inner City Press, click here for that. No lawsuit was ever filed, and how could it be? Pioli DID rent one of his apartment to the ambassador whose war crimes denial film he later screened. It was simply pressure to censor the coverage. Later it showed up in Italian, here.
Pioli hosts UN officials and those whose votes he wants at a Long Island mansion he rents out, for tens of thousands of dollars a month, during the summer. He makes campaign contributions to politicians he is supposed to be covering. Small but telling, in the UN Press Briefing Room he gave a gift to the UN Deputy Spokesperson. This is the past and future UNCA.
And how would this further decayed UNCA advocate even to maintain media access at the UN? The question has been asked by FUNCA, elsewhere. And it has been on HuffPost Live, here. Watch this site.
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. Theyprovide 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.
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