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On Rio +20, UN Ban on Global Conversation, Staged Questions in Briefing Room

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 22 -- As the UN answers fewer and fewer questions from the press, whether about the multi-nation war in Somalia or its alleged transmission of cholera to Haiti, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday held a staged "conversation" event in the UN's media briefing room, complete with master of ceremonies from BBC.

  The invitation gave a hint of things to come: "A limited number of seats are being held for media at the event launching a global conversation for Rio+20: The Future We Want, on Tuesday, 22 November, 10 - 11 a.m., in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium."

  Why would there be only "a limited number of seats... held for the media" in what is supposed to be the UN's media briefing room?

  The event began with softball questions from the master of ceremonies, who thereafter selected from "social media" what were called "good questions." Then a member of the Swedish Mission to the UN was called on to ask a question.

Usually in this briefing room, Mission personnel are not allowed in, much less given the floor. The venue for Ban to take questions from Mission is in the North Lawn building where he has his office. Conference Rooms 6 and 7 there have television capability too. So why try to give the event the patina of Q&A and "conversation"?

(c) UN Photo
Ban on, are at least in, Rio, real Q&A not yet shown

   Some weeks ago after Ban named as the co-chair of his High Level Group on sustainable energy Charles Holliday, the chairman of Bank of America which is being protested at Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere as the Number One funder of mountain top removal coal mining, the question was not permitted to Ban in the briefing room, and Ban's adviser said he'd never heard of the issue.

   Later it was said that "everyone must have a seat at the table." But remember: only limited seats for independent media, even in the media briefing room. And so it goes at the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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