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On Syria, UNSC Can't Agree On Press Statement, Just Summary, No Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- On Syria chemical weapons, the UN Security Council on Wednesday could not agree on a non-binding press statement or even "elements to the press." Instead at the end of the meeting August's Council president, Argentine Permanent Representative Perceval read a summary of the meeting. (And UK Deputy PR Parham spoke, video here.)

   Inner City Press asked her about the rejected draft press statement (on which Inner City Press first reported, here.) Perceval smiled, but did not answer.

  Nor did UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson answer any questions after he made a statement. After these two UN-televised, no-question press encounters, UK Deputy Permanent Representative Phillip Parham spoke to reporters, not on UNTV.

  He said some 35 countries have written to Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press asked Parham about the rejected draft press statement: how many votes did it have, which countries blocked it. Parham said he would not "get into the internal discussions in the Council." Video here, and embedded below.

  Afterward a Security Council member, on a not for attribution basis -- see below -- told Inner City Press that "two Permanent members" said they needed to check with their capitals on the draft press statement, "which would have taken 24 hours, so we just did the summary."

Process: We say "not for attribution" because the UN Department of Public Information made it more difficult than ever to cover the Security Council meeting. Without explanation, earlier this week they said journalists now could not stand in an area between the so-called Turkish Lounge and the entrance stairs.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access repeatedly asked for clarification, on August 20 and at the August 21 UN noon briefing, then via @FUNCA_info.

After that, DPI's Stephane Dujarric belatedly replied, only to say that the informal oral ruling WAS the answer:

But by then another DPI staffer had said the press could stand in the space, to see, but only for short periods of time. How long?

  FUNCA wrote to the Under Secretary General of DPI, copying another FUNCA member who represents a wire service, but has yet to receive any explanation or response to this:

This is a request for a written statement and explanation of where correspondents can work (stand and ask questions) from at the UNSC stakeout.

In a change of policy, I was told this week that correspondents now CANNOT be in the space south of the steps, before the Turkish Lounge.

I asked Stephane Dujarric about this, and got no answer. I asked at today's noon briefing -- that is, for an on the record answer. But there's been none. Another MALU staff this afternoon told me one can stand there momentarily and look, but not remain. For how long?

Now Stephane has belatedly responded that the MALU answer is the answer. WHICH MALU answer? Earlier this week, or today? When was this policy changed? To whom was it explained? 

  Inner City Press stood, with other FUNCA members, in the space, bothering no one (and being able to access sources, see earlier story). But when Inner City Press was standing there alone, the Department of Public Information got UN Security to tell Inner City Press to unplug its computer and leave the space.

  A former UNCA president agreed, saying that space is for "off the record" communications, and commenting on the Free UN Coalition for Access. Well, it's not for DPI much less UNCA to tell journalists where to have on the record communications. We'll have more on this.


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