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UN Blacks Out its TV on Yemen Nobel Winner, Syria, Belated Answer, In Full

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 13, updated 2:15 pm -- On June 12 Yemeni Nobel Prize winner Tawakkol Karman spoke before UN Television camera for over five minutes including answering questions from Inner City Press about Ali Saleh, impunity, and Syria.

  But it was never shown on UN TV. And despite asking in writing Wednesday morning then at the June 13 noon briefing, the questions have not been answered.

Inner City Press asked at the June 12 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about UN TV. One thing is that Tawakul Karman, the Nobel Prize winner from Yemen, spoke today at the stakeout on UN TV, including about the topic of Syria. I am yet to see it up, and I just wanted to see what the policy is in terms of making that video available. And I also wanted to ask about the cut off of Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari last Thursday. You’d called it a miscommunication. But multiple people, part of the chain that led to the cut off have said to me that Michele DuBach, the acting Deputy Director of the News and Media Division specifically called and said turn it off. So, is this what you are saying was a miscommunication? Did somebody miscommunicate to her, because she seemed to speak very clearly and not miscommunicate to say turn it off. Then, later, it was turned on. But, can we get more clarity about what led to this order to turn it off?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Have you finished?

Inner City Press: Yeah, I have.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Okay. On the first part, the remarks at the stakeout by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, we can check on that of course. On the second part, the call made to the control room at UN Television was made on the instructions of the Director of the News and Media Division. It is as simple as that, okay? Yes?

Inner City Press: That’s Mr. Dujarric?

Spokesperson: The last time I looked he was the Director of the News and Media Division, yes, that’s right.

Stephane Dujarric was spokesman for Kofi Annan, then for UNDP's Helen Clark, and is now in charge, along with UN TV, of media accreditation at the UN.

Tuesday afternoon, with the Tawakkol Karman video still not online, Inner City Press got this:

Subject: Your question on the Webcast
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 4:07 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Live UN Webcast was not available this morning, because a cable was inadvertently cut by a construction crew as part of the renovation. On-demand videos of the events this morning will be available at the Webcast site.

  Because others were complaining they could not see even the afternoon's Security Council session on Iran, Inner City Press tweeted about it, citing Dujarric because his name was cited in the Security Council as responsible for the Webcast and its discontents.

  On Tuesday night -- when Inner City Press worked to put its own video of the Tawakkol Karman stakeout on its YouTube channel, here, since the UN hadn't -- Dujarric tweeted back, seeming to invite questions directly to him. Inner City Press sees an obvious conflict, but nevertheless on Wednesday morning e-mail this to Dujarric:

As suggested, here are morning questions about UN TV:

- why did you decide to tell UN TV to turn off when Syria's Perm Rep started speaking in the GA on June 7? What was Ms. DuBach's role?

- what happened with UN TV yesterday morning? Was a cable cut? By whom? What are the repercussions? How widespread was the impact?

- will the footage of Tawakkol Karman be put up on UN TV archives, as it was in October 2011? If not, why not?

No answer having been received, after a question about Haiti that Spokesman Nersirky didn't substantively answer, Inner City Press asked why the Tawakkol Karman footage was still not online.

Nesirky said that something must be wrong with Inner City Press' email, because Dujarric had sent one and Nesirky would not repeat its contents.

   Inner City Press immediately said, I have not received any email from Dujarric, so what is the answer? The 4 pm June 12 email was not from Dujarric, and in any event Inner City Press was asking ABOUT it on June 13. But Nesirky didn't even allow any more questions. And so it goes at the UN.

Update: at 2:11 pm on June 13, two hours after the noon briefing and an hour after the publication of the above, the following arrived (apparently, not only UNTV but other UN wires are cut or slow) -


As mentioned repeatedly, we very much regret and apologize for the brief disruption of the UN's broadcasting of the General Assembly meeting on Syria yesterday. This was due to a mis-communication within the News & Media division. Basically, the latest information about what parts of the meetings were open and which parts were closed were not shared widely enough. Every effort is being made to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Michele duBach acted on my instructions.

Regarding coverage yesterday, as mentioned after the briefing, the live UN Webcast was not available this morning, because a cable was inadvertently cut by a construction crew as part of the renovation. Every effort is being made to put online on the UN webcast site the videos that was recorded during the day. My understanding is that the repairs are on going and will be completed soon.

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