UN, Council Excludes Spokesman's Office Without A Fight, Ineptitude
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 15, updated --
A shift of power has taken place in the UN, with
UN Secretariat staff now barred from Security Council consultations,
and it is unclear what role ineptitude has in the power play.
the 15 members of the UN Security Council met behind closed doors,
representatives of the Secretary General's Office of the Spokesman,
and UN Peacekeeping staffers, could attend.
this month, the UN Spokesperson's Office and most Peacekeeping
staffers have been barred from consultations. Several of these
staffers have complained to Inner City Press, how can they implement
or explain the Council's mandates if they cannot hear what members
Ki-moon's Spokesperson's Office to be barred raises other issues,
several journalists say. Already, they say, new Spokesperson Martin
Nesirky finds it difficult to answer questions, even if he wants to,
due to lack of sources.
Nesirky did not himself fight for access to consultations, but instead
sent his Deputy Marie Okabe. Whether this was because Nesirky was
away on travel through Central Asia, or because Ms. Okabe is Japanese
like this month's Council president Yukio Takasu is not known. But
the reporters slammed Nesirky
for allowing his Office to lose power
without even putting up a fight.
UN's Ban and OSSG's Nesirky on the move - but not to
would never have allowed this," one said, referring to Kofi
Annan's long time spokesman.
Dujarric," chimed in another, referring to the spokesman for the
latter stage Kofi, now with UNDP.
political systems, separation of powers questions are not resolved in
such ad hoc, incompetent ways. But perhaps the UN is not a mature
Council president Yukio Takasu on April 15 was asked if there was any
progress on restoring to the UN press corps at least as much access
as they had on the second floor, before the Council moved to the UN's
basement. Takasu called it a work in progress. Later, a UN Security
official told Inner City Press, you have good news. Did it refer to
access to the stairs, to be able to discourse with willing
Ambassadors as they leave the Council? We'll see.
Update of April 16: while access
has still not been granted to the stairs, the pen to which the press is
confined has been made smaller. There are moves afoot to install a UN
TV camera trained on the Council entrance. "There'll be five years of
this," one Ambassador quipped to Inner City Press as he left the
the Office of
the Spokesperson for the Secretary General was losing access to
information with out a fight, its Associate
Spokesperson Farhan Haq
was doling out response to questions asked at the UN's noon briefing
to media other than the one that asked. Such selective propaganda
another low point for the Office, perhaps not unrelated to its
increasing loss of access, relevance and credibility.
Update of April 16: At Friday's
noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Martin Nesirky if the work of his
Office suffered due to exclusion from Council consultations. He
responded that he is still trying to understand the changes. We will
revisit this issue.
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Restrictions by UN Security Council Come from 2 Permanent Members, UN
Source Say, Even Ban Staff to be Excluded
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 5, updated --
Monday by at least two UN
Security Council members about "involuntary interaction"
with the media and non-Council member states, incoming Council
president Yukio Takasu of Japan faced a series of questions about
restrictions on press access.
asked Takasu to confirm that in the morning's consultations, two
Permanent members had said non-Council member states should wait out
by the staircase, and the press be confined behind the staircase.
from Minute 18:06.
Takasu, who had earlier
spoken about the need for transparency, did not answer about the
meeting, but said access should be "equivalent" at before
the Council moved to the UN basement from its longtime home on the
Takasu, tellingly, also spoke of Council members' desire to leave the
consultation room "without being seen." Is this
transparency or invisibility, one wag questioned.
exclusively Monday morning on the Council's closed
door meeting and move to push the press further away, has since
learned that the concerned raised in the meeting including a move to
bar representatives of the Office of the Spokesperson for the
Secretary General from the consultations room.
freedom and access, then, this is a question of separation of powers.
Inner City Press at Monday's noon briefing asked Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe who controls UN
Security and the building: the Secretariat or the Security Council?
Okabe answered. But, Inner City Press followed up, does this mean
merely the 15 states on the Council, just the Permanent Five members,
or the full UN membership of 192? Ms. Okabe declined to answer,
saying that meetings were being set up.
from the first
of these meetings, the UN correspondents were banned. And a request
to meet with the Japanese Mission, since they hold this month's
Council presidency, was rejected by the Secretariat's Security
Council Affairs unit, which said both that the complaints came from
among Permanent members, and that these members are the ones to
decide, since they remain on the Council.
that the move to restrict access came, perhaps
surprisingly, from the U.S. Mission. Ambassador Susan Rice is known
to have been incensed at the leak last year -- again, to Inner City
Press -- of a draft resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea.
Correspondents note that unlike other P-5 Ambassadors, Susan Rice
keeps a number of body guards between herself and the press corps. But the US Mission to the UN told Inner
City Press that the US did not speak on the issue when it was raised in
consultations by another delegations. Some now ask: why not?
Old UN stakeout, with bodyguard - not to be seen again?
Araud is at times acerbic toward the press. The UK's Mark Lyall Grant
is businesslike, conducting recent stakeouts on Myanmar -- which he
called Burma -- and Sri Lanka. Russia's Vitaly Churkin often jokes, how
with the press, and Chinese's recently arrived Ambassador Li Baodong
held a free wheeling stakeout. These could all be public faces for
closed door push-back at the press. One reporter surmised that the
complaint may have been triggered by questions -- or rather, "good
mornings" -- directed Monday morning to Ambassadors Li and Araud. We
will crack this case. Watch
whichever of the Permanent Five is trying to push non-Council membes
and the press away, they should step forward, and not use mid-level UN
Secretariat staff as their mouthpiece.
If the U.S.
Mission, as the U.S. Constitution, is committed to freedom of the press
and access to public servants, the U.S. should become the most vocal in
ensuring continued press access, especially
when restrictions on the press are raised by another Permanent Five
member in closed consultations. The UK and France also
speak about press freedom. And where is Ban Ki-moon and his team on all
Update of 4:20 p.m.
-- Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar is said to have inquired
what the Press' next move will be. While there's talk of a "sit in at
the stakeout," watch this site.
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