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Inner City Press Asked UN's Phumzile Mlambo About Her Comments on Zuma, Then Asked UN

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, en francais, 1st Person

UNITED NATIONS, February 15 – UN officials are supposedly international civil servants, no longer involved in and commenting on politics in “their” country. Hours before Jacob Zuma resigned in South Africa, Inner City Press asked the head of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo about an interview she gave the day before, specifically on Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. Do you take your international civil servant hat off? How does it work? When the UN Department of Public Information put up the video of the press conference, the audio of Phumzile Mlambo's answer was cut. UN video without audio here, at 24:46. After the cut, she said, “there's no play book for that.” After the cut, on February 15 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: with South Africa, but only indirectly.  I just wanted to ask you, yesterday, there was a press conference by the head of UN-Women.  And among other questions, I asked her about an interview that she'd given in which she kind of… she described her past working under Thabo Mbeki, talked about the ANC.  So, I just… kind of as a soft… I don't want to say it's a softball, but I asked, what are the… you know, what are the rules out applicable to an international civil servant speaking about the politics in their country?  Some of the audio was lost in the thing, but she definitely said there's no playbook for this.  And I wonder, isn't there a playbook?  Isn't there… what would you say in terms of… what was the… what's the Secretary-General's view on how his officials should comment on the politics in their country? Spokesman:  Listen, I didn't hear exactly what she said.  I think, if she was commenting on her past and the Executive Director has a very prominent past in the politics and in her country and the struggle that the country went through, I see no reason why she shouldn't be able to talk about it.  I think a lot of senior officials bring with themselves, bring historical… have a background, a historical background, and they should… whether they talk about it or not is their own choice.  Obviously, I think UN officials should… you know, unless part of their mandate, need to be careful, I think, commenting on active political situations.  But, obviously, as part of their mandate, they often have a responsibility to do so.  I say this as a matter of principle.  I didn't hear exactly what she said. Inner City Press: Sure.  You can easily find the interview.  It wasn't said here.  It was in the midst of political turbulence in South Africa and definitely… so I guess I'm just wish… I'm wondering, like, how’s she…? Spokesman:  I'm sure I will. Okay.  I think I tried to answer, and if there's an issue, I'm sure the Secretary-General will take it up directly with them." What, as he's flying around the world first class? There is, at the UN, a play book for censorship, of the most ham-handed kind. Inner City Press, which has similarly questioned UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous serving France, and Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed referring to Buhari as “my president,” on these topics -a and still finds itself restricted to minders, its long time work space purportdly given to a no-show, no-question Egyptian state media Akhbar al Youm. But cutting audio? We'll have more on this.


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