Sri Lanka news coverage in UN presents challenges, ICP says

Questioning "why the SAG [Special Advisory Group on Peace Keeping] meetings, primarily of member states’ Permanent Representatives, held not in the North Lawn building but in 380 Madison Avenue," and "why different security procedures are being applied to the new venue as if it were a staff meeting," Matthew Lee, a journalist attached to the Inner City Press [ICP] said in a report that the UN’s Media Liaison Unit is acting like a "minder" and is being "permitted to shadow the Press, either by observing who speaks or discouraging such contact by its presence." ICP raised concerns after Lee encountered new security procedures when Lee went to cover the April 2nd meeting. Sri Lanka’s Shavendra Silva whose presence in the SAG meetings was declared appropriate by the SAG’s chair, Louise Frechette, had vowed to attend the meeting.

Controversy was triggered in the UN when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Group was constituted to include Sri Lanka General Shavendra Silva, whose 58th Division is depicted in Ban’s own Panel of Experts report as engaged in war crimes.

"Ban said it was a decision of member states, and on February 22 Inner City Press was ejected from the UN-rented building at 380 Madison Avenue, after spotting Silva in attendance," ICP said of an earlier incident.

On the continuing shadowing of UN’s Media Unit, ICP said, "[o]n April 2, Inner City Press again went to 380 Madison Avenue to observe who went in to the 16th floor meeting room. As Inner City Press stood by the elevators, various SAG members came to speak, noting that Silva had yet to show up," then a UN security officer inquired from Lee the reason for Lee’s presence, ICP said.

While Lee was allowed to stay, UN Media Unit wrote to Lee twice instructing him to contact the Media Unit if Lee wanted to cover meetings in Madison and some other off-campus buildings and that the Media Unit will provide "help".

Meanwhile, even the Correspondents Association had complained that one of ICP’s report was inappropriate and asked that it be changed.

ICP noted that "[p]reviously, the Correspondents’ Association screened inside the UN the Sri Lankan government’s response to Killing Fields, which itself was never screened in the UN. [Also] the President of the Correspondents’ Association used to accept money from Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona as rent — far in the past, he now argues."

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