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As UN Posts S. Sudan Silent Movie, No Explanations, Pope Spin & Tweets Gone

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 8, updated with UN response -- The UN asks for patience, which is fine. But then it doesn't answer. Nine hours after UNTV and UN webcast silenced the Security Council briefing about South Sudan, there was still no explanation why. The video has been put online, here, with ten minutes as silent movie.

  There was no response at all as to why the UN webcast of a General Assembly meeting on inequality offered only English and no translation.

   The UN just soldiered on, cranking out propaganda rather than doing its most basic jobs: hosting meetings and making them accessible to people impacted by them, at least to hear if not participate.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access first raised the silencing of the South Sudan meeting, and UN official Stephane Dujarric to his credit replied, citing an unspecified technical glitch and asking for patience. One assumed that meant that an explanation and some plan to avoid future silencing.

  A request by Inner City Press for a video file of the July 5 noon briefing led to a discovery that the file was damaged and could not be used. Clearly something is going wrong. At Monday's noon briefing Inner City Press asked this and why the briefing itself was not being live webcast:

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Are you seeing it there on your screen?

Inner City Press: I’m trying not to be confused by it, but it is true it is not just not on EZTV, it is also not on the Webcast and also now the things on the side don’t have any translation, for example, the event that the Secretary-General attended, it didn’t list any translations for it, which maybe there were, maybe there weren’t. So since it seems to be not just EZTV, but system-wide, whether it has anything to do with this new contract given to TeamPeople, which I have heard basically the staff has been cut in half and the benefits given are or have been reduced by 25 to 30 per cent, I would like an answer, whether this has to do with that, rather than just the move back to the Secretariatbuilding.

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I say, I do understand your frustrations, and I do know that there have been some difficulties both today and on other days, and I am waiting for a response, because needless to say, we’d already asked and I am waiting for a response from those who deal with these matters to see what we can tell you. Yes, Pam?

  There was no follow up. Dujarric and his Department of Public Information have not said WHY these things have happened -- source tell Inner City Press the MAMS system is a waste, and more -- nor provided any assurance they won't continue to happen.

  Dujarric re-emerged Monday afternoon, tweeting unrelated UN videos, referring to Pope Francis' visit to Lampedusa. It's nice -- but isn't the UN's first job to make sure it provides sound of the South Sudan mission's briefing to the Security Council?

  In fact, Inner City Press is told by sources that the new low-bid contractor Team People provided editors for the UN programs including 21st Century that were not suitable and must be replaced. A TeamPeople executive observed Monday didn't know how the stakeout worked, about Ban Ki-moon's special podium or rostrum; the boom man didn't raise the microphone for Rosemary DiCarlo.

  It's a fiasco and rather than fix it, the UN just blithely pumps out good news about, well, the Pope. Is this the UN's job?

  Similarly, FUNCA on Monday morning pointed out another mis-tweet by the UN's Washington presence, @UNICDC. Last week it was a link to health below the belt, taken down but never explained.

  Today it was a tweet with, in brackets, [Placeholder] and “craft message” at the end. That's the UN planning out propaganda, but still not doing its basic job. FUNCA asked -- the tweet disappeared, again without explanation. This is what the UN is coming to.

Footnote re-cast: FUNCA began its new @FUNCA_questions Twitter feed today. The UN mission in Mali responded -- we put Mali in another story later in the day, here -- and then Dujarric, also to @InnerCityPress.

 Only one problem: Dujarric had previously blocked @InnerCityPress on Twitter. Bygones? Not really: the Department of Public Information has still not rescinded its June 24 threat to suspend or withdraw Inner City Press' acccreditation for merely posting a single Free UN Coalition for Access sign, when it allows UNCA two signs and much more. We'll have more on all this.Watch this site.

Update: now this UN explanation:

"With regard to the question on the missing audio of the first part of Hilde Johnson's briefing to the Security Council on Monday,  we have been told that the router that feeds audio and video from the chambers and conference rooms to the broadcast facilities underwent some upgrading during the weekend by the vendor.

"When they redid the setting afterward, among the numerous parameters that they had to check, they apparently missed one, which caused the audio not to be embedded in the video for the first 15 minutes or so before it was rectified. The remainder of the briefing [about 12 minutes] was recorded  We very much regret this human error.
"We are also aware of the delay of posting videos the webcast page. The webcast team is working as fast as possible to post the videos but there is a technical issue in the retrieval process. This is due to a technical problem with the new system which is in the process of being worked out."

FUNCA notes: this does not explain why the noon briefing was not on the live webcast, nor the lack of translation in the webcast. Shouldn't the UN focus on this? To be continued.

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