By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson selecting Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike to cover his trip to Asia is already catching flak. But did these same media organizations say anything when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres took no press with him on his recent trip to Kenya and Somalia, then invited Al Jazeera to witness in Somalia, and the Washington Post for a laudatory interview? No, they did not. So what is the standard?
When the US State Department on Tuesday's snow day held its media briefing by telephone, many of the questions were on Secretary Tillerson (not) taking media on his trip to Asia. Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner was asked, if one seat was devoted to the media, would Tillerson hand-pick its occupant? It's a good question - but the United Nations already does this, without complaint except from the Free UN Coalition for Access. Secretary General Antonio Guterres' recent trip to Kenya and Somalia was journalist-free, except that Al Jazeera was called in to witness the Somalia leg, and the Washington Post was given an interview for a highly positive profile piece. What if Tillerson did this? With the media he prefers?
Toner was asked why Tillerson's meetings with Gulf leaders have been closed press. But Guterres didn't even disclose his telephone call with Morocco's King about Western Sahara; only Inner City Press, as the UN's in-person briefing, complained. AFP asked Toner about the Netherlands and Turkey; AP asked about Bahrain.
NPR raised the question of UN budget cuts,but Toner put off answering at least until Thursday. Inner City Press has been wondering of the Administration's review of the UN's recent belated announcements on whistleblower protections and peacekeeper sexual abuse. But the question Inner City Press submitted after the call by e-mail concerns Cameroon. We now expect an answer on the ides of March. Watch this site.