PoliticsInstitutional, Politics

UN urged to end restriction on press reporting its handling of Anglophone crisis

Inner City Press, remains restricted, unable to cover the UN's second floor without minders. The UN resident reporter of Inner…

Inner City Press, remains restricted, unable to cover the UN’s second floor without minders. The UN resident reporter of Inner City Press was thrown out recently after persistently questioning a perceived inertia in UN’s treatment of an ongoing uprising in English-speaking Cameroon

Over 2000 people have already signed a petition requesting Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General to end restrictions on the press organ’s reporter and restoration of the Inner City Press office at the UN which, according to the petition update, is currently empty.

An update on the petition, launched by Unfree Press reads in part: “this week as an Ambassador spoke to Inner City Press about the Internet shut-off in Cameroon, UN Security came over to hinder its reporting.”

Matthew Russell Lee, 50-year old blogger who has been reporting on the UN for 10 years was thrown out on a 2-hour notice, and banned. The New York Times reported in May 2016 that over the years, Lee has “asked plenty of provocative questions of the organization’s officials, and has used a wild tabloid style in blogging about perceived corruption, such as an internal United Nations audit related to a bribery scheme.”

He recently engaged in asking apparently irksome questions to UN officials about the handling of the on-going protests in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. Najat Rochdi, outgone UN Resident Coordinator for Cameroon equally blocked him on twitter.

His most recent questions were on UN missions that had to be sent to Cameroon for investigations in the on-going protests against a perceived marginalisation, and requests for independence for the former British Southern Cameroons. He was told another mission will visit Cameroon this month. He also questioned what the UN is doing about the closed to 8o days of internet blackout in English-speaking Cameroon.

Lee also asked whether the UN was going to allow Cameroon be signatory to the UN convention on the use of electronic communications in international contracts when the country has deprived millions of citizens of internet connectivity for more than two months.

He also exposes inertia in the management of UN affairs in Cameroon, noting that UNICEF Cameroon’s website was last updated in 2012 and the two top press releases were about Nigeria. He was told it is the country representative of this UN agency that is playing the role of UN Resident Coordinator.

In his briefing of April 5, on Cameroon, he wrote: “So on April 5, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson’s Office, Associate Spokesperson Eri Kaneko, what if anything the UN has done about the Internet cut.  She replied, “Seemingly the Office’s and UN’s policy that we’ve heard your question and if we have anything to add further, we’ll let you know. Further? Nothing has been done.

On April 4, Agnes Marcaillou, Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, mentioned work in Cameroon so Inner City Press asked about it and the Internet cut.  She replied that “we all read Inner City Press” and for that reason, we know about the Internet cut, but her answer was about Boko Haram.

On March 31, Inner City Press put a question about the outrage of Cameroon saying it will accede to the UN “electronic communications” treaty while denying such communications to millions of people to UN Spokesman Farhan Haq. UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: Given that the internet has been turned off to millions of people for 76 days, I noticed that the Government says that it’s going to be depositing a ratification of something called a UN convention on the use of electronic communications in international contracts.  And I wanted to know, will the Secretariat… do they have any role in… in… in reviewing the sort of legitimacy of ratifications or… or… what would you say about a country that’s turned off the internet to its own population depositing a ratification to an electronic communications convention at that time?
Deputy Spokesman:  Those are separate issues.  Regarding treaties, all treaties are looked at to see whether the instruments… whether the treaties are properly filed as they’re being deposited.”

It is expected that through the petition to the UN SG, Inner City Press would be restored to the office it was ousted from allegedly without due process and that Mathew Russell Lee would be restored to Resident Correspondent accreditation.

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