Friday, June 10, 2016

On Western Sahara, UN Bans Press From Briefing, Weak Technical Team UNexplained

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- When the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution on Western Sahara on April 29, there were two no votes - Venezuela and Uruguay - and three abstentions: Angola, Russia and New Zealand. Then the UN buried Polisario's Q&A with the Press, and when Pressed said, "It is what it is."

  Criticized outside the Council was France's (and Spain's) role, seeking to delay even reporting on MINURSO for 90 days -- so as to impact the selection of Next Secretary General, some say.

Here is an article in Spanish on some of the process at the UNhere is the New York Times of May 14 about the related eviction.

The two came together on June 10, when Inner City Press was BANned from attending a briefing on Western Sahara inside the UN, despite being invited to it. The UN has in 2016 confined Inner City Press to minders or “escorts;” Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the New York Times, about Inner City Press, that “if he has an issue, there is a staff of media liaisons to help him resolve the problem and get where he needs to go.”

  That, like much else, was not true. Inner City Press went to the Liaisons, showed the email invitation - and was told, we never escort people there. Ultimately Inner City Press was unable to attend the briefing, which before the pretextual ouster and eviction it would have been able to. Dujarric called on an attendee first at the day's noon briefing, who asked the questions raised by the briefing. This is how it works, or doesn't at the UN.

   Inner City Press had already reported the UNexplained involvement of another Under Secretary General in the MINURSO process -- he was named at the June 10 briefing, Jamal Benomar; the technical team sent there is to return to New York next week. Ban Ki-moon's capitulation to Saudi Arabia puts all this in a new light - the outright censorship not UNrelated.

On May 18, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: I wanted to know if you have any update not only of the talks between the Secretariat and Morocco but also of just the current status of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  I've heard that Kim Bolduc essentially has no staff at all, that there's a person who's an air traffic controller who is doubling as her kind of factotum.  Is that… how would you characterize the current staff levels and what Ms. Bolduc actually does day to day.

Spokesman:  She is there as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General and continues to work and lead the mission.  Obviously, the civilian staffing continue… has not changed, and the mission is not able to fulfil its mandate as it was designed.  The… the work continues, and we will report back to the Security Council as mandated by the last resolution.

  On April 29 even while Uruguay spoke in the Security Council, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric started up “his” noon briefing (which ended with a profanity directed at Inner City Press, sound later edited out or censored on UNTV). After that, finding Morocco's Omar Hilale at the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him to whom his King referred, in criticizing UN officers: only Christopher Ross? Or USg Jeff Feltman too? Hilale said he would not criticize by name.

   At 3 pm there was another UNTV stakeout. Inner City Press asked if Polisario could speak. When the representative of Polisario took to the microphone to read a statement (Tweeted photo of statement here) a UN Security guard came over, and the feed and sound went dark. More correspondents came, and the sound went up again. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked, You have a right to speak here, right? Yes, was the answer.

 (On May 2, a UN Security guard told Inner City Press in front of the ECOSOC Chamber where Ban Ki-moon spoke, You have no right to be here; Inner City Press was then told it could not ask questions of diplomats. This is today's UN.)
 But the resulting video was not put on the UN's website. So on May 2 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video hereUN transcript here:

Inner City Press: for a time the sound and picture went out but then it came back up, which seemed to be appropriate.  But I'm noticing now in terms of the archive version, it's not up.  What is the UN's position, you say he has every right to be in the building, if he is, in fact, invited and accompanied by the Permanent Representative of a Member State, why is the video of his stakeout not on the UN archives?  Can you find out?

Spokesman Dujarric:  We can check with DPI (Department of Public Information).

  But by noon on May 3, nothing. So Inner City Press asked again, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: on this World Press Freedom Day theme, since you're saying that all of these things are just small examples or personal examples, I had asked you yesterday about the fact that the… the… the stakeout by the representative of Polisario was not put on the UN's website.  You said you could… we could check with DPI.  It wasn't clear to me who the "we" was, but I want to ask you, because I have gone back and checked and in 2012 when the same representative spoke, the archive did go up.  It seems like… what's the trend here?  What is the reason why a taped, several minutes long Q&A with Polisario's representative was not put on the UN's website?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think… this issue… we're trying to work through this issue.

Inner City Press:  Meaning what? Somebody's lobbying to not put it up?

Spokesman:  I'll leave it at that.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  But you will finally announce why…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I will leave it at that.

 On May 4, Inner City Press asked yet again - and while Dujarric said it was archived, as it turns out is was added to the tail end of the Algerian stakeout - Dujarric hasn't yet answers if that was (Gallach's) compromise. UN transcript:

Inner City Press: On this question of Polisario, I wanted to ask, I have been asking a couple times but I have kind of a new… the question of the stakeout that was recorded but was temporarily stopped, then began again, not going into archives, the Turkish Cypriot community that you mentioned, their’s always go up.  Yesterday MSF and ICRC, which are not Member States…

Spokesman Dujarric:  It's archived.

Inner City Press:  It's archived now, great.  Can you explain what the delay was?

Spokesman Dujarric:  No.

Inner City Press:  You won't?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I don't.

  Before Dujarric finished "his" briefing, Inner City Press found that searching UN Webcast for Polisario would not find the clip - was was merely appended to Algeria, though it was a separate stakeout. Was this Gallach's compromise? Inner City Press audibly asked - but Dujarric did not answer, and it was then not in the transcript.

 So on May 6, Inner City Press asked again, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: you said that the stakeout of the representative Polisario [Front] was, in fact, added three days late to the UN's website.  But, it was added sort of as the tail end in the Algerian Permanent Representative's presentation.  And I wonder, given that there was a gap between the two and given that usually when that's done… was this a compromise reached after some lobbying? How was that reached?

Spokesman Dujarric:  It is what it is, as we say.

  Yeah - UN censorship under Ban Ki-moon, "it is what it is," from burying this to evicting the Press, video here.

 Meanwhile DPI chief Cristina Gallach, Spain's highest UN official and responsible for UNTV, has ousted and evicted Inner City Press, and now mulls handing its long time office to French or Morocco media.

 As is happens, when Polisario spoke on UNTV in 2012, before Gallach's tenure, it DID go into UN archives, here. This is censorship and the decay and of the UN. We'll have more on this.