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On Syria, Hollande Cites "Spirit of Geneva" In Reply to Pre-Selected Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- When French President Francois Holland arrived for a press conference ostensibly about climate change at the UN on Sunday, the fix was in. UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric had chosen the two questioners, and perhaps the questions: both were about Syria.

Hollande used the opportunity to brag about France's airstrikes in Iraq and to say that the “spirit of Geneva” means no more Bashar al Assad. Inner City Press fast translation and transcription below. Then Hollande left.

  It was scripted even before it began. As Inner City Press noted on Twitter and a live blog, seats next to it in the front row which had been occupied seemingly by fellow journalists for the preceding press conference by Japan were suddenly vacated for French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Royale. They were seat holders.

Moments later a woman asked Inner City Press to give up its seat, saying she was a minister. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access said no, “je suis journaliste;” Spokesman Dujarric, French himself, rolled his eyes.

Update: ICP is informed that the woman who demanded the Press vacate the first row was Annick Girardin, Minister for Francophonie or #Francophony.

  Dujarric set aside the first of two question for the UN Correspondents Association, the same vice president who claimed the right to the first question to Hillary Clinton - as a private citizen - at the UN Security Council stakeout, and used it then to ask if she was only being asked about her email server because she is a woman.

   This time, he asked a softball about Syria. But it wasn't to Hollande's liking, perhaps knowing that the second and last question would specifically name Bashar al Assad: a real batting practice pitch, in the American parlance.

   Hollande said, “If we return to the spirit of Geneva, and Russia plays its role, Geneva is a transition under which Bashar al Assad is no more. That's what we have to get to.”

  Bragging, knocking the softball out of the park, Hollande said “For months we have been acting in Iraq, using airstrikes aimed at the retaking of territory seized by Da'esh by the Iraqi government. France has supported the Syrian opposition for a long time, so it can act against the regime and now against Da'esh and terrorism.”

Then Hollande was gone, seat-holders and all, as Inner City Press said, “Any Sangaris update,” meaning any action on French soldiers' alleged rapes of children in the Central African Republic. Dujarric routinely says, Ask France. But it was not permitted, at least this time.

A year after French President Francois Hollande tried to privatize the UN Press Briefing Room by having non-French journalists removed, his team on September 27, 2015 adopted a different strategy for the same result. At 8:40 am the UN said there would be a press conference by Hollande in just five minutes, at 8:45 am. Call it innovation.

  Apparently in his press conference, Hollande had many of the seats in the front of the UN Press Briefing Room “reserved” - because Brazil cited this as a precedent for their 11:30 am press conference by Dilma Rousseff (that's another story).  France, returning with Hollande for a session scheduled for 2:15 pm, again tried to control spaces in the front rows, as did the old UN Correspondents Association, which ejected a visiting journalist from “its” seat.

 And the question for Hollande? For Inner City Press, it would be what actions have been taken on the French soldiers alleged to have raped children in the Central African Republic. Watch this site.

Update: After Hollande came in, two people who had sat next to Inner City Press through the entire Japanese briefing from 1:30 pm got up, to give their seat to Laurent Fabuis and Royale. Then a lady approached Inner City Press, in full view of UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, and told Inner City Press to move, she's a "minister." Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access said Non, je suis journaliste, je veux poser ma question.

Meanwhile Ban Ki-moon said Peru's President Humala regretted not being present. But he WAS present, next to Hollande. Inner City Press asked Humala about the Trans Pacific Partnership on September 27: watch this site.

Back on September 23, 2014 the entourage of French President Francois Hollande repeatedly ordered the UN accredited Press to leave the UN's Press Briefing Room.

  A briefing by Hollande had been scheduled for 11 am, then was canceled. But at 10:55 am as a previous briefing about climate change was ending, Inner City Press was told to leave the room.

  The question, On whose orders? was not answered. Instead a woman in the French delegation said the room was "reserved."

   This is not a restaurant, Inner City Press replied, now on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which advocates for the rights of journalists and for a Freedom of Information Act covering the UN.

  Another member of the French delegation said loudly, "They'll take away his accreditation." It was not necessarily an idle threat: the UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had looked into the room as this happened.

   Inner City Press said, if UN Media Accreditation -- or UN Security -- tell me to leave, I will. But not before. Video here.

  After a time, the woman from Hollande's entourage said that the chief of UN Media Accreditation, whom she made a point of saying she knows well, was not answering the phone. A French security guard told Inner City Press to leave. But this is not their role, in the UN briefing room.

  Finally the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius and the new Permanent Representative to the UN came and sat in the front room with Inner City Press and FUNCA.  Hollande appeared from the doorway Spokesman Dujarric had looked out of.

  Hollande said he had come mostly about climate change, but that a French citizen had been taken hostage in Algeria by a group linked with ISIL or "Da'ech," as he called the group. He said arms deliveries would continue; he noted the previous night's air strikes, by others, on Syria.

  Hollande said he would meet in the afternoon with the Syrian Opposition Coalition's Hadi al Bahra, who he called the only legitimate leader of Syria. Then he left without taking questions.

  The day before, UNCA hosted al Bahra (as they had his predecessor Ahmad Jarba) in the clubhouse the UN gives this group, publicized only to those which pay it dues. Given that UNCA did nothing when Araud told the Lebanese reporter "you are not a journalist, you are an agent," why didn't Hollande hold his press conference in the club of UNCA, the UN's Censorship Alliance?


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