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UN Spox Dujarric Refused 2 Days to Answer ICP on Cameroon, Rif, Gabon, Cites NY Mets

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16 – How low has the UN Spokesperson's office sunk, after lead Spokesman Stephane Dujarric outright refused to answer a Press question about Burundi, while engaging in extensive back and forth during a noon briefing about the Sex and the City show? On June 12 and 13, Inner City Press submitted to Dujarric and his Deputy nine questions - not a single one of which was answered by June 14. On June 15, when Inner City Press noted Dujarric leaving the UN still without providing answers on Morocco's Rif region, Cameroon and UN envoy Lounceny Fall, Dujarric's response was to stress that the baseball cap he wore was for the New York Mets, here. So, if Dujarric were the general manager of the Mets, if he did has he's done at the UN he'd "lend" the Citi Field press box to scribes who only praise the Mets, then evict and restrict for sixteen months and counting any press that dared critique or even question the Mets. And who would Antonio Guterres be, in that Dujarric scnario - Bernie Madoff? He was a nice guy... There was no explanation, including when Inner City Press on the morning of June 14 again raised the nine questions directly in person to Dujarric. The questions include: On CAR and Berberati, please state when the UN became aware of the situation and the SEA risk. Inner City Press is informed there as an OIOS evaluation a full year ago, and informed the then new chief of the CDT about its findings that the battalion at issue ignored all orders on SEA prevention, e.g. closed perimeters, no civilians in the camp. When did UN know, and what did they do about it? On the May 31 UNOCA report, please state who WERE the leaders Paul Biya was “willing to dialogue with” either – the ones in detention or the interim ones, and please state UNOCA's view of the 50 year rule in Gabon of the Bongo family, given that UNOCA was established in Gabon in 2011. On Morocco and Rif, give the large demonstration in Rabat over the weekend and use of tear gas in Rif, at least 86 arrested, reiterating for eighth time Inner City Press' question: what is the SG's or DPAs comment on this, to the Moroccan authorities? And again, please provide a list of who works in / or the Executive Office of the Secretary General and whether they are paid by the UN, by a UN affiliate like UNOPS, or by a country and is so which. What if anything is the UN / MONUSCO doing in the wake of jail-break of 900 from Kangbayi prison in North Kivu, DRC? In Zambia, opposition figure Hakainde Hichilema, jailed for a traffic infraction, has been moved to a maximum security prison. Given your Office's previous answers on Zambia, what is the UN / DPA saying or doing on this?" Back on April 11 Inner City Press asked Dujarric about Zambia's arrest for "treason" of the opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, and about Ghana's ruling party-affiliated Delta Force's raid on the Kumasi Circuit Court. Dujarric said he did not know about the Ghana raid, despite having read out praise of Ghana's president moments before. On Zambia, he had no comment - and nothing by the end of the day. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: now that you've mentioned Ghana, I wanted to ask you, can you, do you have any comment on the, the raid on the Circuit Court in that country by the Government ruling-party-affiliated Delta Force, and was this, this seems to be a pretty big thing.  And is it in any way, did it come up in any way in… in the review of this, the announcement that you made at the beginning of the press conference about Ghana?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General spoke to the President a few days ago.  I'll have to look into the report you mentioned.  I hadn't seen it.

Inner City Press: People in human rights groups all over the world…

Spokesman:  I have no doubt that… I just… haven't seen it.

  And by the end of the day, nothing. What is a spokesperson's job? It continued: Inner City Press: In Zambia, the main opposition leader, Mr. Hichilema, has been arrested by the Government on treason charges.  Is there any, is DPA or any of the various envoys of the UN…

Spokesman:  I don't have anything on that.

  And nothing by the end of the day. This is today's UN. Back on March 30 after the UN's noon briefing with only three questioners (and without still-restricted Inner City Press), the question again arose: what is the bare minimum a spokesperson should be expected to do, for an organization like the UN? Should it include at least providing some response to Press questions submitted? Despite only have to response to the three questioner, two hours after submission not one of these, or outstanding questions on Cameroon and Western Sahara, was answered: "These are four questions in advance of the noon briefing, to be answered at that time, thanks in advance:
1) In Cambodia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has just been sentenced to one year and eight months in prison along paying a fine to Hun Sen on charges of “defamation.” This coincides with the 20th anniversary of the grenade attack on a rally led by Rainsy. What is the UN's comment, and separately what is it doing about this in Cambodia? 2) On the DRC Congo: 1. Who found the bodies of Sharp & Catalan? The UN or the DRC authorities? 2. How many bodies were found? Just 2, or 3? 3. Is the UN aware of the status of Betu Tshintela? Can the UN confirm that Betu's body was found along with Michael & Zaida? 4. How to explain this discrepancy? 5. Has the UN been to the site where the bodies were found, yes or no? 3) In light of recent criticism that the UN supports corrupt governments, please explain / amplify the UN's RC in Zimbabwe's statement that “'Our role is to support development in Zimbabwe in partnership with the government. We are behind government' ... He said all its efforts were done in agreement with President Robert Mugabe and his government.” 4) Also, please describe the vetting done in connection with Sri Lanka military deployments with UN Peacekeeping missions in Mali and elsewhere, given the UN's own reports on military abuses in Sri Lanka." We'll have more on this.

    On March 29, the UN was providing two responses to five Inner City Press question, simply ignoring questions on Cameroon, corruption and Western Sahara? Inner City Press on the morning of March 29 asked the UN's top three spokespeople "questions in advance of the noon briefing, to be answered at that time: 1) What is the Secretary General's comment on Jordan rolling out the red carpet for Sudan's Omar al Bashir, subject to an ICC arrest warrant for genocide? 2) Given that the UN Economic Commission for Africa has had to delay its meeting with African finance ministers at the Dakar meeting the 38th floor is tracking due to Morocco seeking to exclude the Polisario, does the SG / DPA think these developments move the situation in Western Sahara closer to a peaceful solution and referendum? 3) In one of two UN-related bribery prosecutions in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Ng Lap Seng's co-defendant Jeff C. Yin is now engaged in plea negotiations, as Ng Lap Seng's trial draws near. Will the UN be monitoring the trial as to what it shows of UN involvement, and what was done regarding the DGACM official who provided a falsified / amended for “technical” reasons document regarding the proposed Macau convention center? 4) Because UNanswered, asking again: In Cameroon, former UN legal adviser (in UNAMA and elsewhere) Felix Agbor Balla now, according to a UK-based barristers' organization, faces a military trial with the death penalty on the table for speaking out about conditions in the country's Anglophone areas, where the Internet has been cut for 71 days and counting. Particularly given Agbor-Balla's former position as a UN legal expert, what is not only the UN's comment, but what is the UN doing to attempt to ensure he receives due process? Also, what about the arrest of human rights lawyer Robert Fon and his transfer to Yaounde? Also, yesterday your Office replied, regarding the USG of DPI, “We will announce arrivals and departures as they occur.” Now that your partner has arranged a farewell for this USG for March 30, what is the rationale for your Office refusing to confirm her departure and the status of recruiting a replacement? And the unanswered questions below."

  To those Inner City Press questions, the UN Spokesman provided, past 2:30 pm, only this -- "Regarding your question about Omar al-Bashir, our position on him remains unchanged.  We urge all States, including the States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, to abide by their obligations. Regarding the naming of senior officials, we have announced two appointments today (for the Executive Director of WFP and the High Commissioner for Disarmament Affairs).  Other announcements will be made in due course.  Regarding Under-Secretary-General Cristina Gallach, her position will be filled by an Officer-in-Charge upon her departure while the process to find a new Under-Secretary-General for Public Information continues." So, nothing on Cameroon or Morocco / Western Sahara / ECA, nor other questions on UN costs and corruption. We'll have more on this.

Again, what is the bare minimum a spokesperson should be expected to do, for an organization like the UN? Should it include, if a spokesperson has no answer to a journalist's questions at an in-person briefing, e-mailing an answer when it becomes available? Not in today's UN Spokesperson's office, at least not for Inner City Press which that Office evicted from the UN Press Briefing Room and then the UN, and still restricts. On March 7, holdover Deputy Spokesperson Haq wouldn't even explain why he had not provided available UN information, video here. On March 6, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about Nepal. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press:  I know that the UN used to have a mission in Nepal, but there's been kind of increasing problems in the Madhesi and Tharu communities there, including now today people killed by security forces.  And it seems to be politically there are groups trying to mobilize.  So, I just wondered, since the Secretary-General talks about preventative diplomacy, is the UN actually looking at this growing problem in Nepal?  And does it have any idea of trying to somehow get involved as well as commenting on the killing of unarmed individuals by the security forces?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, of course, we want to make sure that any excessive use of force will be investigated.  Beyond that, we're monitoring the situation.  If there's anything further down the line, we'll let you know at that point.

   "We'll let you know." Well, the UN Office in Nepal put out a statement that it is "seriously concerned by the escalation of tensions in the lead-up to the local elections announced for May," which others (not in the UN) then sent to Inner City Press. From the UN's two holdover spokesmen, nothing. On March 7, Inner City Press asked Haq why he hadn't followed through on his "if there's anything further down the line, we'll let you know" line. From the March 7 transcript:

Inner City Press:  yesterday I’d asked you about Nepal, and you said, you know, “I’ll get back to you if something comes out”.  Something actually did come out from the office of Nepal.  So I… maybe you’ll read it from here, but, like… wasn’t that… when you say “I’m gonna get back to you”, does it mean I’m going to send you something if the UN system provides the information?  Like, what happened?

Deputy Spokesman:  It means exactly what it means.  We’ve been dealing with each other for years.  You’ll get answers down the line once we get them.

Inner City Press:  So do you have… you’re unaware that the office of Nepal has actually put out a statement about the incident I asked you about yesterday, or do you have that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m aware that they’ve put out a statement.  That was after I was at the briefing.  If it was before the briefing, we could have mentioned it then.

Inner City Press:  Right, but since… between the two briefings, like, once they put it out.

  Beckett. Or Pinter. This is similar to lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when Inner City Press asked last week about the abuse of Anglophones in Cameroon, not even asking or providing a response from the Department of Political Affairs, whose Jeffrey Feltman in a rare Q&A session on March 6 said that ONUCA's Francois Lonseny Fall had visited the region. Lazy spox, indeed. UNacceptable. We'll have more on this.

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