UN Gives Journalism Prize to Investigation Exposing UN Responsibility for Cholera – And Still Won’t Accept Responsibility
|Wednesday, 19 December 2012 18:00|
Tonight, in a ceremony presided over by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, BBC correspondent Mark Doyle and producer Piers Scholfield will be presented with an award from the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA). The award, one of many to be handed out, is described by the UNCA as being for “the best coverage of the United Nations and its agencies.” Certainly by “best” they do not mean the most flattering. The BBC radio documentary that earned Scholfield and Doyle the prize was an investigation into the source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, which over the past two years has killed over 7,800 and sickened over 625,000. A host of scientific evidence, as well as on the ground reporting, including by Doyle and Scholfield, has pinpointed a U.N. military base as the source of the outbreak.
One of the primary means by which the U.N. has deflected blame since the beginning has been to insist that efforts to find the source of the epidemic would detract from fighting it. By relaunching an existing Haitian-Dominican effort under the guise of a U.N. initiative, the world body can once again claim to be too busy saving Haitian lives to comment on how those lives were put in danger in the first place. It took no time for this to happen. When an AP reporter asked on Dec. 11 whether humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher thought the U.N. caused the cholera epidemic, he refused to comment, saying: "My focus is on today."
In announcing this new initiative the U.N. pledged just $23.5 million of their own funds, less than four percent of what they are spending on keeping MINUSTAH troops in the country this year; the same troops that introduced the disease in the first place. As Mark Doyle commented after last week’s announcement, “The United Nations is good at launching appeals for aid. It is less good at admitting its own faults.”
On March 7th of this year, as the coup against Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide took shape, journalist Ricardo Ortega fell to the ground as he covered street protests in Port Au Prince. He had been fatally shot in the chest. His last words, as he was loaded onto a truck with other wounded, were "I cannot breathe." It was reported at the time that he had been shot by Aristide supporters.
Democracy Now’s interview with Martin is available here.
Ortega’s death reminded the media that Aristide supporters would remain a threat to it as long as they were armed. Initial inves-tigation showed that the ambush in which Ortega and the other seven were killed had been carefully prepared.
But RSF admitted in 2008 that:
The conclusions of the judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, invalidate the theory, which has long been circulated, that the bullets which fatally wounded Ricardo Ortega came from the supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, during demonstrations after he was ousted from power.