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On Syria, Of Aid Access & Nusra, UN Hot & Cold on Press Harassment As Access Shrinks

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 20, updated -- When the Middle East consultations of the UN Security Council broke up Tuesday early afternoon, no one came to speak before the UNTV camera at the stakeout.

  Inner City Press asked a range of attendees of the closed door meeting and learned that when Council member South Korea asked UN briefer Oscar Fernandez-Taranco how many foreign An Nusra fighters there are in Syria, he answered with a range: for six thousand to forty thousand. Quite a range, that.

  There was talk of Australia, next month's Council president, and Luxembourg proposing a draft resolution on humanitarian issues, the wish-list grandly presented by Baroness Valerie Amos the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  Still, the journalists penned into the Security Council stakeout wanted and needed more. At the day's UN noon briefing, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky seemed defensive about questions why UN representative Lakhdar Brahimi is NOT attending the Russian and US talks in The Hague. The key word is "bilateral," he said.

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky about the arrest in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Badie, a seemingly civil case against Mohamed Al Baradei, and attacks on journalists. Nesirky said he didn't have anything on the case against Al Baradei -- reported in Al Ahram this morning -- and that those arrested should be released or tried transparently.

  On Egypt, Nesirky told Inner City Press that the UN and Secretary General believe journalists should not be harassed. Then Inner City Press asked if the Secretary General or UN had any comment on the controversial detention by the UK of journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda.

  "No," Nesirky said.

  Back at the stakeout, journalist were not been allowed into space previously allocated to and used by then, between the Security Council entrance steps and the so-called Turkish Lounge. With a UN Security guard standing in the space, Inner City Press on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked for a ruling. The response came back from the head of the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit: no, you cannot enter.

  So the question was sent through @FUNCA_info to MALU's supervisor Stephane Dujarric, then by e-mail above and below him in the UN Department of Public Information. Watch this site.


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