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Poor CNN journalism over John Ashe

CNN under the heading "Foundation founder's guilty plea: I helped fund U.N. official's extravagant life." and the subsequent poor reporting by THREE so called CNN journalists  said "Shiwei Yan has admitted in court of bribing a U.N. colleague and funding his lifestyle full of Rolexes, BMWs, tailored suits and even an in-home basketball court."

As i reported in my blog in October the evidences presented is wrong, it isn’t UN or UN staff or even those who were members of staff of the office of the former president of the GA, who are, at the moment, being accused of anything. It is a representative of a member state of the UN. This is totally different from the organization being involved in any kind of wrongdoing. It should be reported accordingly.

John Ashe was President of the UN General Assembly.

Now lets look at the issue of who the President of the UN General Assembly (UNPGA) is. The President of the UN General Assembly is elected by member states.

For those readers who do not know – this includes the media (in particular CNN) – the President of the UN General Assembly is NOT a UN staff person.And the composition of the UNPGA office is also mostly composed of Member States representatives not UN staff.

“Compensation of the President of the General Assembly is determined by the home Member State, which pays the President a salary. This salary is in addition to the privileges of all persons acting in service of the UN or its member states.” ( )

He is NOT answerable to the UN Secretary General but as Rule 36 states “the President, in the exercise of his functions remains under the authority of the General Assembly.” (UN rules of procedure)

It is the responsibility of the media (CNN please note) to report accurately what the state of affairs is. What would be more accurate to say is that an Ambassador at the UN, appointed by his country and later elected by his peers, and answerable to the 193 member states to the UN, while undertaking his work as President of the UN General Assembly is being compensated by his country for this work is accused of bribery. Of course, this is not as dramatic.

Is it surprising that trust in the media is at an all time low. For the CNN journalists who wrote the article perhaps its time for a refresher at a good journalist school.


  1. Felix and all,

    While all that you say is true; this is like parsing facts. No professional journalist would describe Ashe as you do at the end in this way in either a headline or an opening paragraph - its too many words and too knit-picky. Perhaps they might say though "an Ambassador at the UN and a former President of the General Assembly" - though he was also chair or co-chair of numerous UN processes. But that is not much different than saying a "UN official". Sure, Ashe was appointed by and answerable to the UN Member States; but the same is true of the UN Secretary-General - whom is the top UN official.

    My question is how come this whole sordid situation went on for years and no one at the UN seemed to take notice of it. I can tell you I never much liked John Ashe once I knew who he was. I first noticed him when he chaired a session of CSD - I think CSD13. Every morning he came to our NGO/Major Groups meeting and briefed us. He acted like he was disappointed that CSD was not taking more ambitious and effective action and that he cared about the concerns we were bringing up and what we would like the CSD to do; but he displayed no leadership in actually trying to get them to do it and kept telling us there was nothing he could do because it was up to the Member States and not up to him.

    Contrast this then with what the Open Working Group on the SDGs was able to achieve and why. A good and proactive Chair can make all the difference in the world. Ashe was nothing more than an apologist for the status quo. A fancy man of little substance that should never have been put in the positions he was. Well, that is my take on it anyway; but then I didn't pay all that much attention to what he was doing after that CSD experience any way.

    But this is more of the type of thing that I would like to see you say in your blog posts, along with asking and noting why at times do the UN Member States allow such things to happen at the UN.

  2. Dear Rob,

    This blog focuses on the poor CNN journalism and in particular that the office of the President of the UNGA is not accountable to the UN. It has no oversight of the President - if the UN had then i am sure this would not have happened. So to present this as the UN is at best sloppy journalism at worst an intent to misrepresent the situation. I did suggest some retraining for the journalists and a few schools that CNN might consider sending them to.

    the rest of your blog about CSD was dealt with at the time their was a retreat in September after that CSD to try and work out how to put the CSD back on track. That resulted in some research and reports and recommendations which ultimately saw the CSD closed down to be replaced by a higher body int he UN.


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