UN Bans Press from Council Hall, Demand Tracks Back to Araud of
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 6, updated -- The controversy over which
Permanent Five member
of the Security Council was most responsible for Monday's move to
push the Press back to avoid "involuntary interaction" has
taken a new turn. On April 5 the lack of clarity about who controls
the UN building, and to some degree the press, came into focus when
one or more Permanent members of the Security Council said reporters
should be barred from hallway outside the new Council.
briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe
who controls this space, the Council, the General Assembly, or the
Secretary General. Ms. Okabe dodged the question, then said "the
Member States, as you know, have a great say in this. This is their
building. So, let’s leave it at that." Transcript
here and below.
states -- the full 192 members, the 15 members of the Council, the
Permanent Five -- or just a single one of the P-Five? While Inner
City Press initially also named the United States, which called to
deny involvement, multiple sources now identify French Permanent
Representative Gerard Araud as the one who raised the issue in the
Council's closed door session.
is perhaps not surprising. Of
the Permanent Five ambassadors, Araud has gone the longest without
taking questions from the Press at the stakeout or in a press
conference. The UK's Mark Lyall Grant spoke most recently about
Myanmar; Araud did not speak. The US' Susan Rice spoke about Sudan;
Araud did not speak.
recently arrived Li Baodong spoke on the Middle East and Iran, and took
a question about Sri Lanka. (Araud spoke on this topic, but only
outside of the UN at the French consulate on Fifth Avenue.)
Russia's Churkin held a press conference, ostensibly about road safety,
but answered questions about NATO and Georgia, among others. But where
is Araud? He does not lack wit and combativeness, so perhaps he will
speak on the record now.
From the beginning of his time at
in 2009, Araud has made a mark both with his caustic humor
and his rudeness, which those invited call candor. In closed door
sessions with chosen media, Araud has trashed a Middle East leader as
"not all there." Of Guinea's military leader Dadis Camara,
Araud said he "sleeps all day and drinks all night."
some media, he said "you are small people."
reporters say they welcome Araud's off the record candor. But to other
journalists, who along with Inner City Press have challenged him,
Araud turns up his nose and walks by without a word. Then when it is
written about, as Inner City Press did in a live blog of the opening
of the UN's new North Lawn building, the French Mission to the UN
takes to the phones to defend their boss' reputation.
day at the (old) stakeout, Araud made a sarcastic point of saying
hello. Perhaps then the seed was planted to try to use the Council's
move as a pretext to avoid having to face or even see and be seen by
the press before each Council session.
Update of 9:40 am,
April 6 -- already chairs and tables for non-Council member states are
being put where the stakeout should be, with a penned in area further
back for reporters. At the UN, too, apparently, possession is nine
tenths of the law. Media Accreditation late on April 5 asked reporters
to respect the lines drawn while this is all worked out. But on the
other side, construction -- settlement -- proceeds.
of 10:22 a.m.-- with the press corps penned in far back from the
stairs, even the letters of protest could not be handed to
Ambassadors as they entered. U.S. Ambassador Rice strode in. Even as
reporters called out, "We have a letter for you," she
smiled bemused and continued into the Council chamber. Later a
spokesman accepted the letter. Tellingly, neither French Ambassador
Araud nor his spokesman came to the tense stakeout. A member of the
French mission blew the press a kiss, dramatically, and walked into the
Representative Parham came over and took the letter himself. Russia's
Dolgov accept it, asking, "Is it in Russian?" Long after
the meeting began, Council President Takasu had still not been
served. Nor had the Chinese mission. This job was left to Inner City
France's Araud, UN's Ban looking away
introduction to Araud took place in a press conference on poverty in
the Fall of 2009. Araud held forth about Sarkozy's and Kouchner's
work. Inner City Press asked about France's eviction of asylum
seekers in Calais, and treatment of the poor in Mayotte. Araud
refused to answer, and afterwards complained. After he stormed by the
table, outside the Security Council, where other Ambassadors stop to
interact with the Press.
advantage of the Council's move to the basement, he has requested
that the Press not be so close. While the U.S. denies agreeing to the
request, it could have spoken up. As it is, a representative of the
Secretariat's Security Council Affairs unit came out and said that in
the consultations, the exclusion of the Press had been decided on.
an appeal to this month's Council president Yukio Takasu, copied to
Ban Ki-moon, Ali Treki and all Permanent Five members. When Araud
gets it, what will he do? Watch this site.
the April 5
noon briefing transcript:
City Press: this morning in front of the Security Council, a
representative in the Department of Political Affairs or the Security
Council Affairs Unit said that the Council had decided that the press
can’t stand in front of the Security Council; it should be pushed
back, and that non-Council Members will be also in the hallway, in
this area by the stairs. And that Security will enforce this. So,
one, I wanted to know whether that’s a final decision by the
Department of Political Affairs; and two, who controls safety and
security here? Is it, does the Secretary-General, or do the Security
Council Members, can they direct Security to make those moves?
Spokesperson Okabe: I was just walking in here together with the
head of the Media Accreditation Unit; and well, I didn’t have time
to talk to her in detail, she has just had a meeting with Security
and the Security Council Affairs Unit, and I think she has worked out
something that enables closer access by the press to the Security
Council members. So, she will give an update to Giampaolo, who I
think just walked in.
City Press: But is it possible, I guess I’m just…the whole
incident, the whole back and forth this morning, made me wonder kind
of who is, I mean, obviously the Security Council can vote things
about the world at large, but in terms of the building and space, is,
does the Security Council control the building, or does the
Secretariat and the Secretary-General control the building?
Spokesperson: The Member States, as you know, have a great say in
this. This is their building. So, let’s leave it at that. And
City Press: Does that mean the 15 or the whole, all 192? That’s
what I am wanting to get at.
We have to find out those things.
City Press: Yeah, it’s very important. When you say Member
States, is it only 15 or the full contingent?
Spokesperson: The full contingent of what?
City Press: Of all Member States. I was told this morning that
countries like India and Germany might have to, the new quiet room
will be out by the staircase, not inside the room. So, I just wanted
to know who decides that.
Spokesperson: I think the arrangements, my understanding right now,
Matthew, is that the Security Council has just moved from the
traditional premises to the new ones. And I think a lot of the
arrangements are in the middle of being worked out. So, until they
do, I really don’t have enough information to comment further on
the decision-making process. But, I do know that Media Accreditation
is, was just talking to Security Affairs about this particular issue
that came up this morning.
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