Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The UN's Loyal Propagandists in Action

Ever since I read Accuracy in Media's fascinating expose', the first of several exposing journalists flacking for the UN while covering the UN, I've wondered what it's like to engage in such a creepy practice. I mean, how do these guys look at themselves in the mirror? What is it like to love the East River Debating Society so much that you would violate the fundamental conflict of interest and ethical rules of your profession?

I just got a clue to what it's like in an email today, a link to an actual Real Audio file of a "journalist" flacking for the UN in a UN-financed "fake news" show called UN Chronicle. This one is a corker, because the UN correspondent-flack who "hosted" this program, dated Feb. 10, 2004, was none other than Tony Jenkins, correspondent for a Portuguese newspaper and, at the time, president of the UN Correspondents Association.

That's right. The head of the UN reporter group was churning out UN propaganda in his spare time. I found it hard to believe when I first read it in the AIM report. But now I've seen one such show, and it is fascinating. Google "UN Chronicle" and watch more of them. Remember--these are your tax dollars at work.

This fake-news show was produced by the UN's bloated Ministry of Propaganda, its "Department of Public Information." Recently it emerged that you are paying for seven hundred professional propagandists and paper-pushers, all of whom are dedicated to putting out the word on what a great job the UN is doing. I ran an item on this a few days ago. I haven't seen anything about this subject in the media, even though it was raised by a UN correspondent at the daily press briefing.

Maybe the UN's loyal media contingent doesn't want to endanger future UN Chronicle gigs.

Keep in mind that UNCA head Jenkins did not appear on this show as a journalist. He was hosting it, functioning as a UN factotum. Here's an excerpt from the transcript on the web:

ANNOUNCER: From the United Nations in New York, an unedited interview programme on global issues. This is World Chronicle. And here is the host of today's World Chronicle.

JENKINS: Hello, I'm Tony Jenkins and this is World Chronicle. Mention the word `Congo' here at the United Nations and two things come to mind. One: a messy peacekeeping operation in the early 1960s, in which the UN's SecretaryGeneral, Dag Hammarskjold, died in a plane crash. The second is a massive, recent conflict ­ some called it "World War Three" ­ in which more than two and a half million people lost their lives.

Now the brushfire of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ­ or "DRC", in the language of diplomacy ­ has been extinguished. But the ashes are still smoldering. Can the UN bring peace to Africa's troubled heartland? Our guest today is William Lacy Swing, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo, also known as MONUC. Ambassador Swing, welcome to World Chronicle.

Also participating in the fake news show was Philippe Bolopion of Radio France Internationale, and Bill Reilly of United Press International.

According to the AIM article, a UN spokesperson said that journalists are paid to appear on the Chronicle "under some circumstances"--but he wouldn't say how much, or what those circumstances are.

Whether journalists are paid or not to appear on UN-produced programming is not really the issue.

What do you think would happen if Pentagon correspondents appeared on Pentagon-produced programming, or if White House correspondents appeared on White House-produced programming? The world of journalism would go bonkers. But this is the UN. UN correspondents get a pass.

As a matter of fact, when the U.S. government does fake-news programming that doesn't use "real journalists," media groups go ballistic.

Jenkins, as you'll recall, was exposed by FrontPage Magazine for supposedly using his clout with the UN propaganda apparatus--considerable clout, I would guess--to threaten dissident correspondents with revocation of their credentials.

It's almost as if the UN press corps lives in their own little cloud-cuckoo world, their ethical instincts dulled by too much exposure to foul air wafting off the East River.

Time for the rest of journalism to disown these mutts.