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UN Poised To UNfund IRIN Aid News, Which Suspended Video on CAR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 4 -- Campaigns have begun to save, or save the UN funding of, the Integrated Regional Information Network. On April 3, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about it:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about the IRIN [Integrated Regional Information Network] news service. Thereís been a lot of talk, some people have been saying that the UN is either closing it down or defunding it, so thereís a petition to try to keep it afloat. Others are saying itís just being spun off. Can you say, whatís the UNís logic on this long-time humanitarian reporting service, either defunding it or ceasing it from operating?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, at this stage, I donít think that there is any hard and fast decision made. As you are aware, there are many times when weíve had to deal with different problems regarding our various budgets. For example, those of you who want transcripts for the briefing have noticed that at different times itís come a bit slower, partly because there are far fewer people than there used to be to do these sorts of press releases. So we are looking at what kind of facilities we have and how we can keep our functions going. Thatís as much as I have to say on that for now.

Inner City Press: But, I mean, isnít it, with the IRIN service, isnít one of the stated functions of it is sort of to raise the profile of the humanitarian disasters that the UN is trying to funds for?

Deputy Spokesman: Certainly; and all of our various functions are designed to do something important that the Member States want. At the same time, of course, the Member States have given us less funding. And we have to see what we can do with that. And itís based on that we sometimes have to make different decisions. But as far as I know there is no final decision made on that.

   After Inner City Press tweeted this exchange, an IRIN humanitarian reporter from Asia replied that IRIN is two percent of OCHA's 2014 budget. So is the issue really just money?

  The new chief of OCHA's communications, Kieran Dwyer, was until recently the spokesperson for taciturn UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who implemented and defended Ladsous' refusal to answer Press questions. See video here, UK coverage here.

  Back on March 17 Inner City Press reported that there was a video put on the UN-affiliated IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) website about the plight of Muslims in CAR, entitled "Bangui's Ghettos."

   But then it was taken down, with the notification that it was "temporarily suspended."

  Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric why the video was taken down, and he said he would ask his colleagues. Video here.

  Later on March 17, the spokesperson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Amanda Pitt asked Inner City Press what it wanted to know. Inner City Press replied:

"At today's noon briefing I asked why the IRIN video "Bangui's Ghettoes" is now listed as "temporarily suspended" -- Some are troubled by this. Please explain."

  OCHA spokesperson Amanda Pitt sent this answer:

"I would imagine our IRIN and OCHA communications colleagues have been reviewing the CAR content and are perhaps just adjusting it... As you know IRIN is part of OCHA so it's really important that we are able to balance the content we put out and make sure it supports all the work we are doing in country and in the region."

  But it's already unbalanced in CAR... [The video was restored afterward.]

Back on March 7 when Chad's Permanent Representative to the UN Mahamat Zene Cherif came to the Security Council stakeout on March 7, beyond asking him about child soldiers Inner City Press asked him about those who have had to flee Central African Republic into Chad. Shouldn't they be able to return to CAR? Video here and embedded below

Mahamat Zene Cherif said while Chad will not force anyone back, they should be able to return. He said that eighty percent of the Muslims have been chased out of the CAR.

How can elections be held this way, he asked.

Inner City Press asked if perhaps those displaced could vote even while in Chad. Mahamat Zene Cherif said the UN could check the feasibility, but that Chad would hope the displaced could return to CAR.

  The day before, Inner City Press tried to ask French Ambassador Gerard Araud about a statement or report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that the French Sangaris force first disarming the ex-Seleka had left Muslim community vulnerable to attack by Christian anti-Balaka militias.

  Araud refused to take the question while at the microphone, then from the wings insisted there is no Navi Pillay report. Click here for that.

  What forces allowed 80% of the Muslims in CAR to be chased out? And what responsibility do they bear? Watch this site.


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