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UN Guterres Cancels Q&A To Speak to UNCA Falsely Claiming Event Open to All Correspondents

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 – How untransparent and inaccessible is Antonio Guterres, as UN Secretary General? The last time he held a press conference at UN headquarters was more than five months ago, on January 16.  On that day, Inner City Press asked Guterres why he had not acted on the killings by the Cameroon government and had not even started an audit of the China Energy Fund Committee UN bribery case in which CEFC's UN representative Patrick Ho was and is jailed. Since then, no action on Cameroon and still no audit of CEFC China Energy.

   Now after five months Guterres was scheduled to on June 26 finally hold a second press conference. But on June 25, three days after Guterres' Security ousted Inner City Press during an event at which he spoke, Guterres' press conference was canceled without explanation.  But on the same day, Guterres is the guest of honor of the United Nations Correspondents Association: “This year marks UNCA's 70th anniversary, celebrating seven decades of journalism committed to reporting on the UN and its many causes and objectives [!] TUESDAY, JUNE 26th 5:30 pm, North Lawn River View.(North of GA Plaza & Rose Garden)
Opening Remarks by UN Secretary-General
António Guterres, 6:00 pm." But this is not even in the June 26 UN Media Alert. How can the Secretary General speak to a group of journalists, on UN grounds, when other journalists are excluded?
(Last week, Dujarric spoonfed sound bytes to a prominent UNCA members and is working with them to try to further restrict Inner City Press, here - Inner City Press was in fact ousted on June 22, video here, story here). The Free UN Coalition for Access questions this and the propriety of this explicit focus by the UN Correspondents Association on the UN's "causes" rather than simply covering the UN as it is; it and corruption are among the reasons Inner City Press quit UNCA (and co-founded FUNCA).

On June 25 Inner City Press asked Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about it, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:
on Friday there was the Eid event in which António Guterres gave a speech, and I… I want… I guess I want to put this in a general way because I don't understand it.  During the event, as the event went on, I was required to leave by a Lieutenant Dobbins and the emergency response unit.  And it seemed strange, because there were many other non-resident correspondents at the event.  So, I wanted to know… to know, one, what are the rules?  Number two, is it acceptable for a… a… UN Security to… to single out and target a specific journalist?  And I did… and I ask this because I've previously written a story about promotions in DSS [Department of Safety and Security], including Mr. Dobbins, and whatever that is, what are the provisions in the UN to make sure that security cannot abuse its powers?  So those are… I… I… I'd like you to answer that, and also they didn't give their names.  The other individuals refused to give their names.  Is that UN policy?

Deputy Spokesman:  UN Security has their policies.  Your concerns with them need to be addressed to UN Security.  I'm not going to comment on your own problems with UN Security.  Brenden, come on up.

Inner City Press: I don't understand.  This happened at a speech by the Secretary-General.

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I'm sorry, your security issues are things you're going to have to deal with.

Inner City Press: It's not a security issue.  It was done in the name of the Secretary-General.  Is he speaking tomorrow at 6 p.m. somewhere?  Can you say where the Secretary-General is speaking tomorrow at 6 p.m.?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m not going to argue with you on this." There was more - video here.

  FUNCA timely sent this: "This is a timely response to your statement that 'The event is open to all UN correspondents, Please RSVP by FRIDAY, June 22nd to Opening Remarks byUN Secretary-General António Guterres, 6:00 pm (LOCATION TBC).' A UN correspondent, by choice not a member of UNCA, is hereby timely requesting to be informed where SG Antonio Guterres will be making remarks, and to cover it. Please confirm receipt and provide response. On deadline, thank you in advance." A full day later, but 5 pm on Friday, June 22, no answer at all. So it is not true, the claim that "the event is open to all correspondents"? If not, then what?

Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric has continued to restrict the Press that asks him the most questions, in favor of a no-show Egyptian state media whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef is a former president of UNCA and who hasn't asked the UN a question in more than a decade. Now Dujarric has teamed up with three UNCA members to try to claim that covering his privatization of the UN Press Briefing Room is somehow inappropriately aggressive. This is censorship. We'll have more on this.


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