Friday, September 9, 2016

Amid Syria Anger, Voice of America Comes Up Blank for de Mistura, Hired Ban's Son in Law Siddharth Chatterjee

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- When the UN's Staffan de Mistura and Stephen O'Brien held a joint stakeout in Geneva on September 9, the letter from NGOs breaking off cooperation with the UN was the elephant in the room.

But the room, off-camera, was either not full or ill-prepared. The UN moderator called on Voice of America, which had nothing; she called on France 24 twice, and without further identification “Egyptian TV.”

   At the UN in New York, Ban Ki-moon's UN has gone out of its way to break its own rules for Egyptian state media, giving never-present Akhbar al Yom the office space from which Ban and his Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach have evicted Inner City Press, which reported on de Mistura's hiring of Ban's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee.

   Chatterjee, after using threats and more to get an Indian pick-up of that story scrubbed from the Internet, has blocked Inner City Press on Twitter. Ban has given the top UN job in Kenya to his son in law Sid; now his spokesman Stephane Dujarric refuses to answer basic Press questions, calling them “ridiculous accusations” and running from the podium.

  The podia or rostrums in Geneva were both branded “United Nations;” as de Mistura and O'Brien began speak, UN Security struggled to raise a blue UN flag behind them. Branding before all else.

   John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov were meeting, even showed up in one of France 24's two questions - but at least according to their opening remarks, they had North Korea's nuclear test on their minds. And the Next UNSG? We'll have more on this.

   As Turkey's August 24 military operations inside Syria began, in New York the Turkish mission filed a letter with the UN Security Council, which Inner City Press put online here. 

In the letter, Turkey's outgoing Permanent Representative to the UN Halit Cevik cited not only Article 51 of the UN Charter but also UNSC resolutions 1373, 2170 and 2178. It does not mention the Kurds but only DEASH (sic).

  Turkey's letter states among other things that “Turkey initiated a military operation in the early hours of August 24, 2016, against DEASH which has been directly and deliberately targeting Turkey.” It states that Turkey respects Syria's territorial integrity and political unity. The word sovereignty is not used, but “political transition” is.

  Meanwhile a journalist from Turkey's state media TRT, also apparently outgoing, to his credit disclosed that his interview with Cevik's Syrian counterpart Bashar Ja'afari was unceremoniously pulled from broadcast and won't be online.

  As noted, Ban Ki-moon's UN gives this same Turkish state media TRT a solo office, (for) now next to Egypt state media Akhbar al Yom, while throwing the independent Press into the street and confining it to minders. We'll have more on all this.

On the evening of August 23, an item was added to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's online schedule:

* 9:30 a.m. Briefing on the “Report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and other Issues related to Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic”

  Then UN Television said it would broadcast this “photo op” at 10:30 am.  Doesn't “briefing” connote more than photo op? And why isn't it in the UN's Media Alert? Inner City Press wrote to Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Q: UNTV has just announced a “photo op” of the Secretary General, seemingly related to the revised listing * 9:30 a.m. Briefing on the “Report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and other Issues related to Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic”

Where is this “briefing”? Who has been informed of it, and who will be permitted to attend / observe this “briefing”? And if it is a briefing, why does DPI's UNTV describe it as a photo-op?

What is the update on this fourth round of questions onBurundian Lt Col Mayuyu, email of 29 hours ago?

Dujarric, we report upon receipt, responded:

"At 9:30 the SG will receive the report of the OPCW/UN mission and be briefed on its content. The report will then be transmitted to the Security Council. The photo-op is just the handover of the report.  When I something on Burundi, I will share it with you."

It's appreciated - but on the Burundi question, Inner City Press has asked it four times; UN Peacekeeping or after this amount of time the mission in CAR should be able to answer. On Syria, why a photo-op is created - with Kim Won-soo? - is UNclear. But it is appreciated.  Watch this site.

On August 11 when the the UN's third Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura invited the media to a question and answer stakeout on August 11, the turn-out was decidedly light. While the UN used to provide interpretation of stakeouts, this time it didn't.

 Present for a predictable question was Voice of America, with which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman has worked to evict the critical Press (one FOIA document here, more forthcoming). Ban finally did the eviction earlier this year, film here. This is Ban's UN.

   In his prepared statement, de Mistura added a word to the UN's old saw, saying there is no “sustainable” military solution. He quoted a response the day prior in New York by OCHA's Stephen O'Brien - an answer which the UN Department of Public Information under Cristina Gallach didn't even include when it put up the video of the OCHA briefing (which was about South Sudan, another failure of Ban's UN.)

   More than anything, Ban's UN seems to want to be perceived as relevant: it wants to be spoken with, and to brag about its discussions. De Mistura told the near-empty stakeout about his work in previous mediation. Ban himself was out in Los Angeles, bragging about talks with... Norman Lear. This is today's UN.