Tajik Dam Conflict, UN Allows Propaganda Event with Intel Award
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, March 23 -- With the prime minister of Tajikistan Oqil
Oqilov at the UN for two days in a row, claiming leadership on World
Water Day, the UN on Tuesday allowed him a press conference that was
little more than propaganda, with corporate awards given by Intel and
only one question, in Russian, taken.
on Monday asked the prime minister about his country's proposed dam,
which Uzbekistan and now Kazakhstan oppose, He replied that the
electrical power is needed, and that down-river countries with hydro
carbons should proposal some sort of trade.
Uzbekistan's Ambassador Murad Askarov told Inner City Press that they
could not longer afford electricity trading with Tajikistan in
winter, and that absent independent international expert, the dam
should not proceed.
order to get the Tajik prime minister's reply and write to the story,
Inner City Press went to attend his second press conference, about
the Millennium Development Goals. It included a award and a protest --
at end -- but now Inner City Press was not
allowed a question, only this one, later, at the day's UN noon
City Press: There have been two-day events here on Water for Life and
World Water Day and the Prime Minister of Tajikistan has been central
to all of it. There’s a conflict, a pretty serious conflict
between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, that borders have been closed. They
are building a dam that Uzbekistan says cannot be built without
outside observers. So since the UN has this regional centre in
Turkmenistan, the Uzbek Ambassador said that the UN has not gotten
involved in this cross-border; it is only interested in the Aral Sea. I
wanted to know if that is true, and why the UN, given this new
centre, would not be involved in what is probably the starkest
conflict in the area.
just very briefly, I wanted to know, just now there was a press
conference held in this room by the Prime Minister of Tajikistan at
which there was only time for one question. And an award was given
to him by Intel on the stage where you are sitting. And it seemed
like it was more of a PR stunt than a press conference. So I am
wondering: who is in charge of the room here to make that, in the
same way that journalists follow rules, that the room is not filled
with diplomats and that the stage is not used as with journalists as
extras for corporate awards...?
... this preventive diplomacy centre in Turkmenistan, in Ashgabat, is
indeed an important part of the equation in dealing with regional
tensions and regional security. That is why it was established
precisely there. And its role is to look at a whole range of
different topics that could give rise to increased tensions in the
region. That is the first thing. The second thing is, on the
question of the press conference here, it is not for me to decide how
the Prime Minister of Tajikistan conducts his press conference. You
can take that up with the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan.
Tajik PM in UN propaganda zone, disputed dam not shown
It was conducted by DPI [Department of Public Information]. DPI ran
the press conference. And I think we have all seen the rules that
say no more than half an hour, time for Q&A, you see what I am
saying? So the room was not rented to Tajikistan. DPI ran the press
conference, so I am just wondering.
Look, this is done, when you have a press conference in here by a
Permanent Mission, this is the Permanent Mission speaking, not the
United Nations, okay. The Permanent Mission is the body at that
point that is doing the briefing. If they are sitting here on the
stage, it is their briefing; it is not the United Nations.
There was a guy standing at the, I mean there was a gentleman for
DPI who actually was the one who was supposed to call questions. And
there was also a guy from MDGs, there was two others… it was not a
Tajikistan press conference. It was a DPI press conference about the
MDGs. I am just wondering who runs it. That is just a simple
[question], who is in charge of the room?
Well, okay, let’s find out about that and tell you precisely what
the rules are and what the rules are not. I would simply say that,
repeating myself, I do not speak for the Government of Tajikistan,
surprising as it may seem. Right, it is up to them to speak for
it was not
Tajikistan's press conference; it was moderated by DPI. And even when
France moderated its own press conference by Nicolas Sarkozy, when
they sought to limit it to French journalists, the UN said it would
not happen again.
Soon, Ban Ki-moon will travel to Central Asia. Will he
even try to address the dispute about dams? Watch this site.
Tajikistan also sponsored a reception Monday night for Nowruz,
complete with all Central Asian delicacies: samsa, plov, manti and a
dessert caled chuck chuck that looked suspiciously like a Rice
Krispie treat. (A French attended recollected a beer in Togo also
called chuch chuck.)
The UN's Lynn Pascoe took a seat at a raised up
table. Vijay Nambiar buzzed through the crowd shaking hands, to say
that he was there. Of the Permanent Five members of the Security
Council, only Russia's Vitaly Churkin was there. In a swag bag, a key
chain was given out, emblazoned "Tajikistan IS water."
* * *
UN, Kazakh Official Praises Nazarbaev Authority in Karabakh, Dodges
on Free Press
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 5 -- When Kazakhstan's foreign minister Kanat
Saudabayev took three questions from the Press in front of the UN
Security Council stakeout on February 5, lack of media freedom was
unaddressed while the leader Nursultan Nazarbaev was extolled. There
was even an echo of Borat.
requires the Security Council to work with regional organizations.
The OSCE, of which Kazakhstan took from Greece the chairmanship in
January, is one such organization, involved in a number of frozen
conflicts on which the UN cannot act, observing elections as the UN
says it cannot do, most recently in Sri Lanka.
asked Minister Saudabayev two questions, but got only one answered.
Using his February 15 trip to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia as the
hook, Inner City Press asked what Kazakhstan planned to do about
Nagorno-Karabakh -- and then, to respond to questions raised about
media freedom in Kazakhstan, in connection with its OSCE role. Video here,
from Minute 9:43.
translator -- more on him in a moment -- Saudabayev said that there
are things in Kazakhstan's favor, in tacking Nagorno Karabakh:
president Nursultan Nazarbaev "has high authority with
participating parties." Saudabayev walked away without
asked his translator the media freedom questions. He didn't answer
that, but spoke about Evgeniy Zhovtis, saying that he's been a human
rights lawyer in Kazakhstan for years without incident, but when he
"ran over a pedestrian," all bets were off.
answer on press freedom not shown
It is not
political, the translator insisted, contrary to Human Rights Watch.
Yesergepov, editor of the newspaper Alma-Ata Info, was sentenced to
three years in prison on August 8, for disclosing state secrets,
after the newspaper published an article making corruption
allegations against local authorities based on classified documents.
In June, the independent Almaty weekly Taszhargan had to cease
publishing after an appellate court upheld a prior decision awarding
Romin Madinov, a member of parliament, 3 million tenge (about
US$20,000) in "moral damages" for an article alleging that
Madinov's business interests benefited from his legislative work. In
September, an Almaty court ordered the weekly Respublika to pay 60
million tenge (about $400,000) in "moral damages" to the
BTA Bank, which had sued the newspaper after a March article
discussing the bank's possible bankruptcy allegedly cost the bank the
equivalent of $45 million in deposits. The appeal is still pending,
but the newspaper is not able to pay the fine and will cease
publishing if the decision is upheld.
government could have easily shown its commitment to freedom of
expression by not adopting the July amendments, which were sharply
criticized by the OSCE. It also could have established a cap on civil
defamation penalties and ensured that investigative journalists like
Yesergepov are not unjustly subject to criminal prosecution."
Roman Vassilenko, previously the spokesman at Kazakhstan's Embassy in
Washington. In that capacity, when comedian Sasha Baron Cohen of
Borat fame came to the embassy, cameras in tow, Vassilenko had to
deal with him. Now he is translating at the UN in New York for the
foreign minister, accompanied by a coterie of pro-government Kazakh