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At UN, Spokesman Goes Berserky, from Bhutto Report To Afghan Cover Up

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 22 -- The public face of the UN has been melting down this month. Martin Nesirky in public, at the noon briefing which he runs, has taken to criticizing particular stories, to relegating disfavored journalists to the back of the question cue or seeking to limit question, even on topics like Thailand and Sudan.

But that's only the public part. In a meeting with major wire journalists before the Bhutto Report press conference, Nesirky "melted down" in one participant's phrase and jabbed his finger at a reporter, saying you can't talk to me like that.

Based on these descriptions, a new moniker has been suggested: Berserky.

Nesirky, or Berserky, loudly claimed that Bhutto panel leader Munoz refused to provide his report before the press conference, but this turned out to not be true. There was anger, there was lash out, there was attempted rapprochement. But only to some.

Even some of those favored by Nesirky have wondered at how little he fought the exclusion of his Office from Security Council consultations. Asked in a noon briefing by Inner City Press if there is any update, he said to ask the Council. But Japanese Ambassador Takasu on April 22 told Inner City Press this is mere housekeeping. It appears there is no update: Nesirky is out. Is that what has driven him Beserky?

  To some, to began early. The moment he was named to the psot last year, some surmised without rancor that his knowledge of Ban Ki-moon's native tongue Korean had played a role in his selection. As they said on Seinfeld, nothing wrong with that. But Nesirky appeared at a noon briefing at which he took no questions, to deny that language played any role in his selection. This might have been a clue.

UN's Ban and Nesirky, with the far away look in this eyes

  Inner City Press for its part can point most recently to the April 21 briefing, when Nesirky descended to using his bully pulpit to unilaterally denounce a "blog" story -- he emphasized the word "blog" several times -- which characterized as a cover up the UN's stealth processing of evidence indicating UN Security officer Louis Maxwell was killed by the Afghan National forces.

  The next day, April 22, Nesirky relegated Inner City Press to the last question to UNRWA's John Ging, and sought to take no more questions from Inner City Press, including on Sudan, Thailand and Sri Lanka. There were other questions to be asked, but they will come in the future. With or without Beserky. Watch this site.

Footnote: while Mr. Nesirky appears to doubt it, Inner City Press has no particular animus toward him. In person, he is pleasant. Some say he takes questions too personally. One hope this relationship can be saved.

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At UN, Council Excludes Spokesman's Office Without A Fight, Ineptitude or Nationality?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED 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.

  Until now, when 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.

  Beginning earlier 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 think?

  But for Ban 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.

  They marvel that 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.

  "Fred Eckhart would never have allowed this," one said, referring to Kofi Annan's long time spokesman.

  "Even Stephane Dujarric," chimed in another, referring to the spokesman for the latter stage Kofi, now with UNDP.

In most mature political systems, separation of powers questions are not resolved in such ad hoc, incompetent ways. But perhaps the UN is not a mature political system.

Footnotes: 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 Council.

While 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 is 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.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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