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As Ban Ki-moon Sings of Voiceless, UN and Its Spokesman Ignore Darfur, Sri Lanka & Myanmar Questions: Not Doing Job

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- While Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech Saturday entitled “UN has duty to speak out for human rights” by the UN News Center, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky ignored human rights questions from the Press about Darfur, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

In Darfur, UN official Ibrahim Gambari had nothing to say about the Sudanese government's bragging about killing over 20 people, nor counter-claims by rebel groups.

Since this came days after Ban's humanitarian coordinator in Sudan Georg Charpentier said things are getting better in Darfur -- a question about which Nesirky explicitly refused to take on January 21 -- Inner City Press on January 22 asked Nesirky this question:

In Darfur, please state the UN's and UNAMID's understanding of the fighting in the last few days, in light of conflicting statements by the Sudanese government and rebel groups. SLA - Abdelwahid Al Nur spokesman Nimr Abdelrahman has said the government lost six Land Cruisers and seven vehicles of military equipment in a battle on January 20-21 in the Jabra area, 50 kilometers northeast of Nyala. He said that government forces were trying to enter Jebel Marra from Jabra. The government on the other hand says it killed 21 people in a fight with JEM in Marshanag. What has UNAMID done to confirm either account? How many people were killed and injured? What is UNAMID doing?”

  Nine hours later, Nesirky had neither answered nor even acknowledged this Darfur question, despite his job description providing that the UN Spokesman “answers press queries in person, by telephone and e-mail, around the clock... including ability to present and defend difficult positions often in unanticipated situations.”

On January 21, Nesirky refused to answer Inner City Press' question about UN official Charpentier's positive statements about the situation in Darfur. Nesirky told Inner City Press,  “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

   In Ban's speech on Saturday, while Nesirky and his staff ignored questions about Sri Lanka, Darfur, China, Cote d'Ivoire and elsewhere, he said “As United Nations Secretary-General, I never forget this fundamental mission: to stand - to speak out - for human rights and human decency. To protect the world's innocents. To speak for those who would otherwise not be heard.”

  What about those 40,000 civilians killed in Sri Lanka? Here are questions Nesirky has left unanswered for weeks:

-with whom in the Sri Lanka government did Ban or the UN speak before his Dec 17 announcement, talking into account that the External Affairs Minister Peiris later said he learn of it in the media?

- what agreements or understanding have been reached about with whom the Panel will speak in Sri Lanka?

  Ban Ki-moon & Nesirky, refused questions about Darfur & Sri Lanka not shown

 Also unanswered by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to which Nesirky referred Inner City, and now ignored by Nesirky himself, are these questions:

when did Ms. Bragg apply for a visa to Sri Lanka, when was it granted and are there any conditions on the visa, regarding where to travel, whom to speak with, etc?

What does [the UN] say to the protests in east Batticaloa about allegedly inequitable distribution of aid?

Or, as previously requested, on the new rules requiring NGOs and INGOs to register with the Department of Defense, etc

Also, as previously asked-- Does the UN have any comment on Sri Lanka's government ordering the International Committee of the Red Cross out of Northern Sri Lanka?

  Nesirky's deputy Farhan Haq refused to even confirm when Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar was in Myanmar, and Ban has yet to act on requesting, including by Security Council Permanent Five members, that he replace Nambiar with a full time Myanmar envoy.

  What was that again, about answering press questions by email around the clock, and the UN's “mandate” to “speak for those who would otherwise not be heard”? Watch this site.

* * *

Retaliation by Spokesman for "Transparent" Ban Ki-moon Typifies UN Decay

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon runs for a second term claiming transparency and good government, he is represented by a spokesman who on Friday refused to answer questions after being asked about the applicability of a UN rule.

  As Inner City Press asked a question about the UN seeming cover-up of killings in Darfur, Spokesman Martin Nesirky stood up and left the briefing room, saying “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

  The only interchange earlier in the briefing had Inner City Press asking how UN Staff Regulation 1.2, prohibiting staff from public statements underlying impartiality applied to UN official (and Ban Ki-moon favorite) Michelle Montas going on CNN to say she would sue Baby Doc Duvalier.

  The previous day, Inner City Press has asked Nesirky what rule applied to Montas' actions. Nesirky did not provide any rule then, nor the next day.

  But Inner City Press was approached by outraged UN staff, who called Nesirky “the worst spokesperson the UN has ever had,” and provided the applicable rule. They also provided a precedent from last decade, when Doctor Andrew Thompson was fired under this rule for making public UN peacekeepers' sexual abuse of those they were charged to protect.

  On January 21, Inner City Press asked Nesirky about the rule, and intended to ask about the Thompson precedent. But Nesirky said, “I don't want to talk about it further.” Video here, from Minute 18:30.

  Earlier in the briefing, Inner City Press had asked why the UN has said nothing about Sudan's Omar al Bashir's government blocking the printing of a newspaper directed at Southern Sudan, after they published articles about the secession referendum. Video here from Minute 16.

After the UN Rules question, despite having said he would take Inner City Press' question about Ban Ki-moon's humanitarian coordinator for Sudan Georg Charpentier's claims that the thousands of violent deaths in Darfur in the last 12 months were not the al Bashir government's fault, Nesirky refused to take the question.

  Rather he stood up to leave. Asked why, he said “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

   A spokesperson is paid to answer questions. It is particularly strange that the spokesperson for a Secretary General claiming transparency and good government would simply refuse to answer about the applicability of a rule to a public UN action.

  To then retaliate against the media asking the question about rule and refuse to take any question, including about a UN mission for which the UN charges its member states $1 billion a year is outrageous.

   But in Ban Ki-moon's UN, will a UN official who on camera refuses to do his job, explicitly retaliating against a question about Ban administration lawlessness suffer any consequences?

  Other organizations would fire such an individual, including it seems the UN-affiliated International Monetary Fund. Inner City Press currently also covers the IMF, for example getting three questions answered on January 20 with no acrimony, retaliation or lack of professionalism. But in Ban's UN, officials like Nesirky are permitted lawless behavior that would not be allowed anywhere else.

Already, Nesirky has publicly yelled at Inner City Press, “It is my briefing! I run it how I chose!” For the week at the end of 2010, for which he was being paid, Nesirky left question after question unanswered.

Earlier this month, Inner City Press asked Nesirky for Ban's response to a New York Times article about bloat, overlap and waste in Ban's UN. Nesirky replied that since Ban was holding a press conference on January 14, Inner City Press could ask him then. But Nesirky did not allow Inner City Press to ask any question on January 14. Afterward, Inner City Press assessed the lack of transparency in Ban's UN for Swedish television, here.

Most recently, Nesirky said he would get an answer about Ban's staff's involvement in war crimes described in the New Yorker magazine - but has not provided any answers. Many UN correspondents have said he should not remain in the job. And yet he does, representing Ban Ki-moon and a UN that is, particularly on this front, in dramatic decay. Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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

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