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At UN, Halonen Contradicts Rudd on Frequency of Sustainability Meetings, Less Press Access Under Ban Ki-moon?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- Finnish president Tarja Halonen predicted more UN Panel of Global Sustainability meetings than Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd had, when he was accused of two timing by the Press.

In the first media stakeout of this heavy UN week, Inner City Press asked President Halonen how the panel she co-chairs with the absent Jacob Zuma will accomplish much, if it only meets three times in the next two years, as Kevin Rudd described it.

President Halonen responded that there should be a meeting this Fall in New York, another next Spring, and more after that -- that is, more than Rudd had said. She acknowledged her co-chair's absence but said the panel members are committed.

Only two questions were taken, both directed at Halonen, during which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stood seeming uncomfortable. “I will see you later,” he told the Press after the two questions, referring to his upcoming stakeout after a meeting on Pakistan to which Richard Holbrooke and others were seen streaming at 5 pm.

UN's Ban & Halonen in the past, new 2010 arrangements & Rudd not shown

For today, Sunday, reporters are allowed to roam on the second floor of the UN's Temporary North Lawn Building. But starting tomorrow, journalists will largely be confined to a media room on the first floor, with only twenty “free range” passes to share amongst them.

What in previous years was a stakeout microphone in front of the General Assembly Hall is gone. Many have remarked that under Ban Ki-moon, there is less and less press access. But will the member states notice and complain? Watch this site.

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As Turkey Chides Ban Ki-moon on Flotilla Favoritism, UN Noon Briefing Canceled, Not for Serry to Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 18 -- After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement about the report he received from his panel on the assault on the Gaza flotilla, many were surprised it did not mention that Turkey had previously turned in its entire report.

  On September 17, Inner City Press asked Turkey's Permanent Representative Ertugrul Apakan about it. “Candidly we would have expected to have it in the press release,” replied Ambassador Apakan, the Security Council president this month. Video here, from Minute 3:03.

Seeking a response from the Secretariat, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's envoy Robert Serry. But he said, “It's not for me to comment.”

  While the UN is supposed to have a press briefing every day to pursue answers to just such questions, when Inner City Press went to the September 17 session, after a presentation from Ban's Office of Legal Affairs which lacked OLA chief Patricia O'Brien, it was suddenly announced that there would be no noon briefing that day.

  “Why not?” Inner City Press asked. We'll talk about that afterward, online, the moderator of the OLA session said. Video here, at end.

It was explained to Inner City Press that Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky had an emergency and his recently named acting Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq had not come in that day. These things happen, but couldn't someone have given a briefing and taken questions, the day before the UN's MDG Summit and then General Debate began?

UN's Ban & panel's Uribe, pomp but answers & briefing not shown

  Ban and his advisors sometimes complain about press coverage. But when you don't answer questions, or even provide the previously available venue to ask questions, you can't complain about the coverage.

  The President of the Security Council expresses disappointment in a political gaffe by the Secretary General, and the S-G's Spokesperson's Office on no notice cancels its press briefing. The resulting article? Turkey Trashes Ban, Ban Has No Response. And so it goes.

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For UN, Is Merely Being There Enough, with Ban Under Fire for a 2d Term?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- What has Ban Ki-moon accomplished as UN Secretary General in Myanmar and Sudan, Inner City Press asked his spokesman Monday, for the fourth day in a week.

His record is clear,” Spokesman Martin Nesirky replied. “From standing in front of a still burning warehouse in Gaza, to visiting Haiti five days after the earthquake, to visiting Darfur refugee camps... he has achieved a huge amount.” Video here, from Minute 26:55.

But the three achievements listed were only “being there” -- celebrities have traveled to Haiti, and to refugee camps in Darfur and elsewhere.

  Meanwhile reports on the UN's performance in Sudan are largely negative. Rubble still fills Haiti's streets. And even the Goldstone response is late, due to failure to translate. Myanmar, telling, was not even mentioned. Is being there enough?

Seeking the Ban Administration's -- if not yet Ban Ki-moon's -- response to the criticism being heaped upon his tenure, Inner City Press asked Nesirky when he made a piece by a heretofore big UN supporter, “Good Night, Ban Ki-moon.”

We don't need to comment on every piece,” Nesirky said, calling that piece a “rehash.. a lot of what is in the piece has been seen before.” A lot by not all: the piece mentions inaction on Sri Lanka:

A peacekeeping official pointed out that Ban had insisted on behind-the-scenes diplomacy in Sri Lanka even as the government was killing thousands of civilians in its campaign to erase the brutal insurgency of the Tamil Tigers: "We're doing everything we can to avoid saying anything at all about it. That's been our line on practically everything. The SG is clear that his final consideration is going to be the political costs of whether he should or shouldn't speak." That's a very real calculation every secretary-general must make. But, he added, "There's no sense that the deliberations include, 'What should we do?'"”

  Only this year, Ban after saying he would name a panel of experts on war crimes in Sri Lanka, then delaying 90 days, has gone out of his way to limit the scope of the panel to providing advice on “models of accountability” to himself and the Rajapaksa government, if they want it. The Rajapaksas have said they will deny visas to the group; Ban through Nesirky has repeated declined to comment on the refusal to cooperate.

UN's Ban on plane: he was there, cracked windshield and direct responses not shown

  Now a brewing fight is Ban's decision to bypass South African and other developing world candidates to nominate a Canadian, Carman Lapoint-Young, as the new head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. Inner City Press, which reported exclusively on the move on the night of July 23, asked Nesirky for Ban's response to developing world countries who say the post was meant for their regions.

Nesirky once again declined comment, except to say there is “very strong, overwhelming support” for the nominee. Sort of like the overwhelming support for a second term?

It is time for Ban Ki-moon to speak for himself on this controversy -- time for him to “be there,” as it were. He will appear before the press Monday at 5:30. Before his appearance Friday at a reception for the press, Inner City Press was repeatedly told not to ask about the controversy, not to “hijack” the event. That cannot similarly be asked on Monday evening. Watch this site.

 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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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