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Media Handpicked By UN Spokesman Like By Tillerson, Complaints in Turtle Bay from ICP & FUNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 15 – Which media could cover UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' trip to Somalia and Kenya was decided unilaterally by UN Spokesman Dujarric and his two hands, he told Inner City Press on March 15.  US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson selecting Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike to cover his trip to Asia is already catching flak. But did these same media organizations say anything when UN Secretary General Guterres took no press with him on his recent trip to Kenya and Somalia, then invited Al Jazeera to witness in Somalia, and the Washington Post for a laudatory interview? No, they did not. So what is the standard?

 On March 15, including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  the Secretary-General's trip to Kenya, unannounced, but, obviously, important trip to Somalia… how is it decided how… what media would accomplish… would accompany him?  And I ask it because…

Spokesman:  I decided.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  There's now a big outcry.  As you know, the Secretary of State… US Secretary of State is traveling to Asia.  The press corps there has said there needs to be input; you can't just hand-pick people.  So, did you, in fact, hand-pick people?

Spokesman:  First of all, I think you're comparing apples and oranges.  When the Secretary-General travels, he travels, for the most part, on commercial flights.  We do not have the infrastructure that a lot of Member States have, that their foreign ministers or leaders have in terms of… of taking journalists along.  That's just an infrastructure we don't have.  When we feel we need to take journalists along, we take them along, and we figure out what… in the best possible way.

Inner City Press:  Right, but…

Spokesman:  And it's… I… I decide…

Inner City Press:  You [inaudible] that it's hand-picking?  How is this different than what…?

Spokesman:  Well, I have two hands.  It's… I think you're comparing apples and oranges.

  When the US State Department on Tuesday's snow day held its media briefing by telephone, many of the questions were on Secretary Tillerson (not) taking media on his trip to Asia. Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner was asked, if one seat was devoted to the media, would Tillerson hand-pick its occupant? It's a good question - but the United Nations already does this, without complaint except from the Free UN Coalition for Access. Secretary General Antonio Guterres' recent trip to Kenya and Somalia was journalist-free, except that Al Jazeera was called in to witness the Somalia leg, and the Washington Post was given an interview for a highly positive profile piece. What if Tillerson did this? With the media he prefers?

    Toner was asked why Tillerson's meetings with Gulf leaders have been closed press. But Guterres didn't even disclose his telephone call with Morocco's King about Western Sahara; only Inner City Press, as the UN's in-person briefing, complained. AFP asked Toner about the Netherlands and Turkey; AP asked about Bahrain.

   NPR raised the question of UN budget cuts, but Toner put off answering at least until Thursday. Inner City Press has been wondering of the Administration's review of the UN's recent belated announcements on whistleblower protections and peacekeeper sexual abuse. But the question Inner City Press submitted after the call by e-mail concerns Cameroon. We now expect an answer on the ides of March. Watch this site.


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