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On Syria, Ban Dodges, Echo Chamber Results, Reuters Charade of Free Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNdisclosed Location, March 21 -- To make his Syria chemical weapons probe announcement Thursday morning, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summoned scribes to his 38th floor office to serve as extras in the film.

  Ban did not take or at least answer any questions. At the end he said, “for any detailed matters,” to ask his spokesman Martin Nesirky.

  But at Thursday's noon briefing, at which all but one question was about Syria (and none at all about Africa, 70% of the UN's work), Nesirky offered few answers.

  Nesirky said to ask the French and UK Missions to the UN what their letter says. As if to excuse the lack of clarity on the scope of the investigation Ban says he is preparing, Nesirky noted that this is fast, by UN standards.

  That is true: for example in Sri Lanka in 2009, the UN actively covered up casualty figures until they were leaked to Inner City Press. Then the UN said they are about saving people, not counting them.

  Nesirky was asked if Lakhdar Brahimi would be negotiating the scope and access with Syria. No, he said, that would be done by the relevant officials in Disarmament. Does that mean Germany's Angela Kane?

  The questioning got repetitive. Even Nesirky said it was like “an echo chamber” when one UN Correspondents Association board member after another, An-Nahar to Daily Dawn of Pakistan, asked identical questions.

  A question about the possible use of depleted uranium was sidestepped, as was looking into whether chemical weapons could have come from Libya, through Lebanon.

  Reuters' bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, channeling the UK and French letter, talked right over Nesirky, who used to work at Reuters. Nesirky appeared to push back, then answered and said, “I hope that's helpful.”

  Later, still helpful, UNCA and UN collaborated to cover themselves about a 3 pm event moved but still held in the UN, in a suddenly and cynically re-named “UNCA Square” festooned with fruits and ham and cheese.

  Cuba protested to Ban that UNCA would use the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium. UNCA clearly agreed to move the event, emailing only its members at 9 am that it would be in “UNCA Square.”

   But then Charbonneau and others faux protested at noon, as if they hadn't agreed. UNCA's “Office,” which sent out the new notice, and then claimed that the move was just to make it “more casual.” It's a big charade: the UN's Censorship Alliance. Watch this site.

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