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As UN Ban Ki-moon Hosts Sri Lanka Peiris, Press Banned Even from Photo Op, "Turn That Camera Off"

[Inner City Press, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 08:50 No Comment]

Not only on Sri Lanka and war crimes, but now on press freedom and access, the UN has hit a new low. Hours after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Inner City Press he "totally reject[s] all that kind of allegations" by the International Crisis Group of UN complicity in violation of international humanitarian law, Inner City Press was banned from the photo opportunity of Ban and Sri Lanka’s visiting Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris.

While a UN Security Officer demanded that Inner City Press turn off its video camera and leave, to go downstairs and have a dog sniff the camera, visible through the glass was Mr. Peiris and his entourage, and Ban advisor Nicholas Haysom. Coming out of the elevator was top Ban political advisor Lynn Pascoe. Inner City Press said, "I’m being blocked from even taking a phone." But Pascoe was gone.

The photo op was on Ban’s schedule and the day’s Media Alert by the UN’s Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, for 3:15 pm. After asking Ban about Sri Lanka and war crimes and publishing his answers– that he rejected and then didn’t know he’d denied the allegations — Inner City Press at 2:48 pm in an abundance of caution told two MALU officials in their office over the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Library that it would be attending the 3:15 pm photo session.

They said fine, that another staffer would be there. Inner City Press walked directly and briskly from the Library to the UN’s new North Lawn Building, arriving at 3 pm. After waiting for the MALU staffer, Inner City Press telephoned MALU’s office. No one answered the phone. Inner City Press left a voice mail reminding of its pre-announced desire to attend the photo op. Finally at 3:09, Inner City Press took an elevator up to Ban’s third floor.

There, one security office said it would be no problem, Inner City Press was known and could go in. But another, in charge of Post 500, told Inner City Press to step back and turn off the camera. Then he demanded that Inner City Press be escorted down to the first floor to wait for a bomb sniffing dog.

This is ridiculous, more than one UN staffer remarked. Several UN audio visual correspondents have told Inner City Press this has never happened to them.

Photo not shown: not allowed

  When finally the canine handler came and say the small video and still camera, he laughed. The dog gave one sniff and Inner City Press was gestured upstairs. It was 3:18 pm.

"It’s over," Inner City Press was told. Ban must already been meeting with Peiris, Palitha Kohona and his Deputy who daily sends letters trying to intimidate from questions being asked.

Earlier on Monday, Ban said that his 80 day delay in naming even a panel to advise him about Sri Lanka’s dubious Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was not because of pressure from Sri Lanka. To have the journalist who has persistently asked Ban and his officials about their actions on and about Sri Lanka banned from even taking a photograph is, at least for now, a new low. Watch this site.

[Full Coverage]

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