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UN Correspondent Has COVID 19 But Still No Answers From UN Spokespeople

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - CJR - PFT

UN GATE / SDNY COURT, March 18 – The United Nations, which bills itself the "world body," should answer questions from the press and public. But since Secretary General Antonio Guterres came in, the UN has become more and more opaque.   

  On March 16, Guterres' Spokesman Stephane Dujarric in a nearly empty Press Briefing Room said that from now on he and his Deputy Farhan Haq will answer questions by text message or WhatsApp.  

  But apparently he tried to limit this offer only to the correspondents whom Guterres, he and Melissa Fleming give office space too, which does not include critical Inner City Press but does involve three huge offices for China's state media Xinhua, for example.  

  Now on March 18, forwarded to Inner City Press, this: "UNCA member tested positive for COVID-19. Their test results were revealed on Tuesday, March 17... The UNCA member was last at UN Headquarters on Thursday, March 12th, attended the spokesperson's noon briefing and spent time at the Delegates Lounge and in the press area on the third floor. Our colleague started feeling the symptoms on Friday morning, took the test on Saturday and immediately quarantined at home... We continue to keep in constant contact with the Spokesperson's Office and MALU for minute-to-minute updates" - but no answers to any other journalists who cover the UN.

 Several disgusted members of the UN Correspondents Association forwarded to Inner City Press an e-mail they received and suggested it submit its questions, about Guterres' and Fleming's lack of financial disclosure, cover up of UN rapes and complicity in Cameroon, through the ways they were invited to. Here's from the e-mail:

"Dear colleagues,  The spokesperson's office has provided us with both Stephane and Farhan's cell number so that correspondents can send a question via WhatsApp or text before noon.  Stephane Dujarric: +1 917 622 7652 

Farhan Haq: +1 917 592 4591  In addition, we are passing on an update from MALU that there will be NO signing in of guests at UNHQ and the accreditation office will not be issuing any temporary passes until further notice. Valeria Robecco President, United Nations Correspondents Association."

  So on March 17 well before noon, by both WhatsApp and text message as well as e-mail, Inner City Press submitted to both spokesmen its substantive questions, ranging from state violence in Cameroon to censorship in Iran to reported cases of UN sexual abuse and Guterres' and Fleming's lack of disclosure. It asked that receipt be confirmed and the questions answered before or at noon.  

When the UN's March 17 noon briefing occurred, there were only two in-person questioners, one of whom is retired. She used the briefing to advertise, as did Spokesman Farhan Haq.

But there were no answers, despite following the procedures detailed above. Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, will have more on this. 


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