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UN Says One Annan Deputy to Syria, But Kidwa's Banned, Day After Censoring

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 18 -- The day after the UN in New York demanded the removal from an Inner City Press story of information about a delegation visiting Damascus, Friday in Geneva Ahmad Fawzi the spokesman for envoy Kofi Annan said

"we can expect a visit soon. We have said before that the Joint Special Envoy is considering an invitation to visit Syria, but no dates have been set yet. His Deputy also plans to visit Syria."

  Annan has two deputies: former UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno, and Nasser El-Kidwa who was nominated by the Arab League and who as Inner City Press has reported has been blocked from visiting Syria by the Assad government.

  At Friday's noon press briefing at the UN in New York, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky to specify which of Annan's two deputies was being referred to. Nesirky refused to answer, saying that Fawzi had chosen his words carefully.

  Inner City Press has checked again on Friday and understands that El Kidwa is still blocked by the Syria government, which only accepts Annan as a UN not Arab League envoy. Inner City Press has learned more about the planned trip but has yet to publish it, in response to the UN's concern and/or censorship.

  But if the UN is comfortable saying publicly that EITHER of Annan's two deputies will go to Damascus, why did it demand the censorship of just such information on May 17?

  As Inner City Press reported on May 16-- and modified at the UN's demand as shown in this version -- on May 16 a Security Council Permanent Representative told the press that

"in the coming days Jean-Marie 'Guehenno and DPKO,' the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, will go to Damascus, on the political track, with it was hoped Kofi Annan to follow. Later on May 16, Inner City Press was informed that the request was made [deleted at UN's request] on the issue of the observers, not the political track."

  More than 12 hours later DPKO's spokesman, copying Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Nesirky, wrote:

Date: Thu, May 17, 2012 at 7:46 AM

I have become aware of you[r] web article and tweets naming [individual's name included in DPKO's email, but deleted here] as planning to travel to syria along with dpko colleaugues. Your decision to publish this information in advance of a trip has created a potentially serious security situation for un personnel. I ask that you remove all such references from the inner city press website without delay

  For the UN to request post-publication removal from the Internet of information, stated on the record by a Security Council's Permanent Representative, seemed to implicate freedom of the press issues which have not been the UN's priority under Ban Ki-moon.

  But within minutes of receiving the above, Inner City Press modified the story, removing the name and an included critique of the individual specified in DPKO's removal request.

  Later on May 17 at that day's noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky:

Inner City Press: on Syria, yesterday, a Security Council Permanent Representative said that DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations] and an individual who he named would be traveling to Damascus. And he said this was on the political track of the Kofi Annan plan. Other diplomats have said that this visit is limited to the issue of the observers. So given the Secretary-General’s role in his Joint Envoy’s work, which is this, the visit that was described by a Permanent Representative on the Security Council? Is it about the political track or is it about the observers?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations does not release travel plans of its officials in such instances and this is a matter of security, and I think you understand that.

Inner City Press: But I guess my question is, as reporters here, if Permanent Representatives describe a trip to us, are we not supposed to report that or do you tell diplomats, for example, even the Syrian Government is informed about this trip, including the individuals who are going. So I just wanted to understand what the protocol is, since I was requested to remove the individual’s name from the story I wrote; what is the protocol on reporting what is said on the record at the UN? I understand the security thing, but if you are giving the names to Syria-

Spokesperson: You are mixing up lots of points here and twisting your… the words, and it is, frankly, unacceptable. In this particular instance, this is plainly a matter of security... And I am not saying any more on the matter, okay?

Inner City Press: So we shouldn’t report on this, this UN mission in Syria?

Spokesperson: You know very well that this is the way that you are trying to distort this to make into a matter of freedom of information…

  Inner City Press: I received an e-mail to change a story, and I disagree with it entirely, absolutely, 100 per cent.

Spokesperson: This is a matter of security. It involves the lives of individuals, and I think that it is something that everyone needs to reflect on. Thanks very much. Have a good afternoon, thank you very much.

  Then the very next day Annan's spokesman said that his Deputy will travel to Damascus. Watch this site.

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