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At UN, Ban's Al Qaeda in Syria Quote Was Not Planned, Gaffes Covered Up

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 27 -- Amid the focus on and use the Syria issue of statements by the UN and its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, mostly unreported is just how slap-dash and un-thought out many of Ban's statements are.

  Ban's famous or infamous May recent statement that "a few days ago there was a huge, serious, massive terrorist attack. I believe that there must be al Qaeda behind it" was made in response to a student's question at a Model UN event in the General Assembly Hall.

  But in the same session, as Inner City Press reported, Ban also referred to the Syrian city of Hamas as "Hamas," a glitch which the UN edited out of its transcript of Ban's remarks without even noting it was brackets. See Inner City Press' May 17 story, here.

  Subsequent reporting by Inner City Press had found that people close to Ban were embarrassed by these and other Ban's statements, and that the "Al Qaeda" reference was not in any prepared speech, remarks or talking points. "He just said it," a source close to Ban told Inner City Press.

  And now that Ban gaffe is impacting and delaying Security Council response to, for example, the deaths on Houla.

  But most of the wire services covering the UN do not report on Ban's many glitches. They seem to want to take him seriously, because it makes their jobs seem more serious. They also do not cover Ban speeches like that at his May 24 "Town Hall" event with staff.

  Staff expressed outrage to Inner City Press that, for example, Ban's first answer was about AIDS to a question about the UN not recognized the domestic partnerships of homosexual staff members if their home countries do not.

  Others were offended when Ban's response to being questioned about his lack of follow up with the government of Afghanistan to the killing of UN Security Officer Louis Maxwell by Afghan National forces was to say he has asked "Hollywood" to make a movie about Maxwell.

Inner City Press reported on this, then at the May 25 UN noon briefing put a series of questions to Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky, about Ban's answers on Maxwell (and Hollywood), gay rights (and AIDS), on and, perhaps relatedly, about media rights.

  Nesirky responded on each that "I am not going to go into the details of what was discussed at a staff meeting" and "there are complications, because of national legislation in some cases.."

  Then Inner City Press asked about " a complaint was filed with the Media and Accreditation… Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) by" Louis Charbonneau, the UN bureau chief of Reuters which used without any credit Inner City Press' exclusive story that US official Jeffrey Feltman will come work by Ban. (Foreign Policy's The Cable did credit Inner City Press, here.)

  Nesirky said of Charbonneau's complaint to MALU that "correspondence between individuals is between individuals, first thing."

  Inner City Press asked as a matter of due press "whether journalists at the UN have a right to see whatever files or complaints are maintained about them."

  Nesirky said, "I think what we have here is something that I am fully aware involves you, and I think that it would be better to be discussed offline, not on camera in the briefing."

  Inner City Press followed up "to know what the procedures are, because I have very little confidence in the off-camera due process."

  Nesirky ended the questioning and the briefing by saying "we’ll deal with it separately. Thanks very much, and have a good weekend."

  Then he went just outside the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium and conferred to Charbonneau, who used to be his colleague at Reuters. Four hours later Inner City Press received written notice of May 29 session seeking to name a "board of examination" to expel it.

In this case, the Emperor has no clothes -- and those including in the media who insist that he does will apparently do anything to keep the nakedness under wraps. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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