Genevieve's Tales of Pillage, Piracy, and Other Fun Stuff

Born as a travel journal, the Tales spun here have since morphed into a general account about life, work, and all the mischief in-between.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When Blogs Get you in Trouble: Case Study - Jan Pronk, UN Envoy to Darfur

The Dutchman, Jan Pronk, UN Envoy to Darfur, got in hot water recently when he was expelled by the Sudanese government for being such an outspoken critic of the atrocities in Darfur. Some might think, well isn't that the job of the UN envoy to stop the carnage in Sudan???

Well, yes, but it's a definite conundrum, a balancing act of diplomacy and PR. If you're an envoy to a state that's corrupt and entrenched, and adamant about what it thinks are 'internal matters'-- it's fight with rebel groups, etc. (by the way, issue of state sovereignty is huge and really prevents the UN from having some real teeth, I think), you have to play nice, especially when you can't get UN peacekeeping troops inside the borders.

So I'm sure Jan Pronk just got so frustrated, seeing the death toll rise and the intransigence of the Sudanese government, that it's no surprise that he lashed out. Where? On his blog of course (via the NYTimes):

Sunday’s action against him was apparently provoked by an entry he made in his blog (www.janpronk.nl) last weekend that said the armed forces had suffered two major defeats with extensive casualties against rebels in Darfur in the past six weeks. He also reported that generals had been cashiered, morale had sunk and the government had collaborated with the feared janjaweed Arab militias, which are held responsible for pillaging villages and killing and raping their residents.

The Sudanese armed forces on Thursday cited the blog entry in calling Mr. Pronk a threat to national security and asking that he be expelled.

The fact that one of its top officials has put sensitive findings in a personal blog has embarrassed the United Nations. When the matter arose Friday, they resisted rebuking Mr. Pronk for the practice for fear that it would appear to be a vote of no confidence in the mission, rather than just a reprimand for his professional lapse.

Questioned Friday over whether the United Nations stood by the statements in Mr. Pronk’s blog, Stéphane Dujarric, Mr. Annan’s spokesman, said the opinions were Mr. Pronk’s “personal views.”

Mr. Dujarric indicated that this was not the first time the problem with Mr. Pronk’s blog writing had come up. “There have been a number of discussions with Mr. Pronk regarding his blog and the expectation of all staff members to exercise proper judgment in what they write in their blogs,” he said.

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