FAO slams "shameful" Insider coverage

Birds-eye view of FAO's vast headquarters

ROME – FAO’s communications chief lashed out at Italian Insider’s coverage as “highly inaccurate” and “shameful” this month as Lamberto Dini strongly denied influencing staffing at the UN agency.

  “Your newspaper, ‘Italian Insider,’ recently published several highly inaccurate articles about FAO that were based on anonymous sources,” Enrique Yeves, FAO’s chief of corporate communications, said in an e mail. “Your way of reporting flouts the basic rules of serious journalism and is damaging to the professional standing and reputation of the officials mentioned in your articles. Your stories are tendentious, based on gossip and misinformed,” Senor Neves claimed.

  Italian Insider reiterated its commitment to accurate and fair reporting and asked Senor Neves to provide details of the alleged inaccuracies in order that it could rectify any factual mistakes. There was no immediate response from the FAO to the request, however.

 Thousands of FAO and other UN employees read Italian Insider’s recent series of online reports about the behind-the-scenes machinations at the Rome-based famine-fighting organisation and deep-seated concern by many staffers from OECD countries about the appointment of a constellation of "special advisors" to the FAO at vast expense. Italian Insider’s reporting of other UN agencies in the past, notably the expenses scandal at IFAD, have been picked up by other news media including The Economist, Il Messaggero newspaper and Italian state-run RAI television. IFAD Director General Kanayo Nwanze moved out of his luxurious villa on the Appian Way after Italian Insider disclosed his extravagant lifestyle.

  "Italian Insider stands by the accuracy of its reporting based on reputable sources at the UN agencies and elsewhere," editor-in-chief John Phillips said. 

 Meanwhile the former Italian Prime Minister, Lamberto Dini, in a telephone call to Italian Insider’s office Thursday strongly denied interfering in the FAO in any way to influence staffing decisions or any other aspect of the agency’s policies. “I have never interfered with anyone at FAO,” Signor Dini said.

 “FAO is not my ‘bailiwick.’” Signor Dini insisted he has never been involved in decisions involving FAO except “indirectly” during his period as the Italian foreign minister. Signor Dini added that that his daughter Paola, recently appointed head of protocol at FAO by Director General José Graziano da Silva, has “made her own way” during her 14 year career at the agency.