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Amid Qs About Departing Araud, $20 Q&A Deemed "Off the Record"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- As French Ambassador Gerard Araud nears the end of his time at the UN, there are many questions he should be asked but has been avoiding.

  For example, if his speeches about Russia in Ukraine are France's position, why is the French sale of Mistral warships to Russia still going forward? Inner City Press asked this at the UN Security Council stakeout but Araud declined to answer.

And as simply another example while Araud claims to have taken no position to oppose a human rights monitoring mechanism in Western Sahara, this is called into question by an answer he gave Inner City Press in 2013, when he still answered Press questions, about bilateral dialogue with Morocco being the best way.

  Many beyond Inner City Press find Araud's position unclear, or as some put it, hypocritical.

  So when publicly on Twitter there appeared an opportunity to ask questions to Araud, albeit for $20, Inner City Press signed up, to "welcome Ambassador Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, to discuss French priorities at the United Nations. Araud will address efforts to allow UN Security Council action regarding the crisis in Syria, as well as French and UN initiatives to allow stabilization in the Central African Republic and in Mali."

   Nowhere did it say it was on background or off the record. The money was accepted, confirmation sent.

  And on May 1, after a UN briefing about the Central African Republic, Inner City Press rushed up to the venue, in a second floor law firm conference room in the Citigroup building.

  Inside the audience was affluent, business people in suits. There were oatmeal raisin cookies and at a conference table, Araud was answering questions. Then he said, repeatedly, "This is off the record."

  Is it legitimate? Why would one publicize an appearance and Q&A by Araud, for money, with no mention of its being off the record -- and then make it off the record? Why was Araud's spokesperson Frederic Jung there for this "off the record" Q&A with business people?

  In Washington last Friday, John Kerry spoke at the Trilateral Commission under announced in advance off the record rules, but a tape was obtained and the rest is history. Here, the event was never said in advance to be off the record, and money was accepted.

  While Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access, which has asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric to convey to Araud and his presumptive successor Jacques Audibert the UN's stated position that correspondents should be treated with respect -- this after Araud on the record and on camera told a reporter, not this one, that "You are not a journalist, you are an agent" -- fully support the reporting on Kerry's Trilateral talk, in this report there are no quotes. But there are questions. Watch this site.


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