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In Ban's UN, Korean Press Wars & Bed Bugs in BBC & NHK, No Q&A With Ban in Seoul

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- The UN's relations with the Press range from bugs to snubs to turf wars. Since the middle of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's trip to China, the UN press corps has been full of questions why Ban didn't mention the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Major media outlets asked Ban's spokesman about the omission day after day.

  When Ban returned, he did not hold any regular press conference. Rather he appeared one morning at 9 am to speak about climate change. When nevertheless a China and human rights question was asked -- albeit one that did not mention Liu Xiaobo -- Ban read from prepared notes that he had mentioned human rights three times in China.

  In the days after that, still no press Q&A with Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Then after holding a press availability only for the Korean media he left for the G-20 meeting in his native South Korea. On November 9 his acting Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq announced that Ban would be holding a press conference -- in Seoul.

  Amid the groans in the press area of UN headquarters, on the second floor of the Dag Hammarskjold Library, there was also on the night of November 8 a belated test for bed bugs. Inner City Press broke the bed bugs story, last year about the UN's “swing space” on 46th Street and last month in the basement of the Library and then elsewhere.

Tests were conducted on the Library's first floor and third floor -- where UN Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane is based -- but not on the second, where the Press offices are. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky explained to Inner City Press that tests are based on requests. So a request was made.

On November 8, some 90% of the cubicles of UN-based media organizations including this one were subject to a canine test, “no cameras allowed.” On November 9 the results were released: two offices were infected, those of BBC and NHK Broadcasting. We'll leave readers to draw their own conclusions.

As in Seoul Ban Ki-moon prepared for the press conference he didn't hold in New York, on the same second floor of the Dag Hammarskjold Libary a turf war was breaking out. In what was previously in the Secretariat called the J or Japanese Room, the “K” or Korean wing is said to often sit empty.

Ban at Republic of Korean pavillion in Shanghai, bugs not shown

At least one reporter for Japanese media moved in to fill the void, due to limited space for her media. A few verbal altercations ensued, until the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit was called in. MALU has a rule that media must be at the UN three days a week to have an office.

Of some of the Korean media it is alleged -- and even admitted -- that the three day test is not met. The perception among numerous correspondents is that the Korean media is protected, by Ban Ki-moon and his senior adviser Kim Won-soo. (In fact, a story is told of Mr. Kim proffering a deal to UN reporters, to get Korean outlets space.)

With Ban seemingly avoiding the UN press corps, any attempt to question the status or presence of Korean media organizations will inevitably be seen as more than bureaucratic. And so a fight impends.

Footnote: for those who question this piece's focus on Seoul then the Korean media, it is worth noting that this year's UN Day concerts was even more Korea heavy that previously reported. A Korean symphony played, sponsored by Korean Broadcasting, begun by a video touting the wonders of Korea. Afterward, Inner City Press got a text message that Ban surfaced at a reception at the Korean Mission just across from the UN. Amid the bed bugs and unanswered questions, there is more and more grumbling. Watch this site.

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As Musharraf Campaign Stops on Park Ave at CFR, Coups, Cases & Debt Scoffed At, Osama Likened to Che Guevara

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- Pervez Musharraf is on a roll, or thinks he is. After launching his All Pakistan Muslim League in the UK, he has held roll out events in hotel ballrooms in Florida and New Jersey.

  Tuesday morning found him at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan, fielding questions about how and why he plans to reclaim power in Islamabad.

  Musharraf sung his own praises, that after his 1999 “coming into power” -- as his CFR biography tactfully puts in it -- he grew the Pakistani economy until, he said, it had more promise that India's.

  But after things were “stirred up against” him, foreign direct investment has dried up and 50% of factories have closed, in his telling.

  Back in Pakistan other stories are told, of how Musharraf hurt the electrical power market, allowed for the first time the US to fly drones over the country, attacked the judicial system. (Click here for Inner City Press recent coverage of Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund, on power subsidies and textile taxes).

  Musharraf claimed there are no court cases against him in Pakistan, and that if any began now it would be “political.” Meanwhile, in his New Jersey appearance where he took no questions from the media, he accused Nawaz Sharif of stealing $1 billion and hiding it in London.

At CFR questions were taken, chosen by NPR's Deborah Amos from among “members,” as she put it. At least one member called on was a journalist, Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker. The last question was finally given to the back of the room, but to (at least) 32 year CIA veteran Jack Devine of the Arkin Group, who asked about Osama Bin Laden and Pakistan's seven tribal areas.

  Musharraf compared Bin Laden to Che Guevara, saying the latter was able to evade capture too.

Musharraf, 9/20/06, before the stir up

  He said that the tribal areas were left undeveloped as a buffer between Russia and India, there there is “two to three percent literacy.” Bin Laden “is viewed as their guest,” Musharraf said, recounting how on one of his visits, he traveled virtually without security because he was protected as a guest of an elder.

According to The Nation, beyond possible court cases Musharraf has been told not to return to Pakistan due to a lack of “security arrangements.” This heralds back to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto when she returned. The UN's three person investigations panel's report left open many questions as to Musharraf, but no one raised it at the CFR event.

It was unclear if Musharraf viewed his appearance as part of his campaign, or more akin to a speaking tour. He said he's spoken in Hong Kong and is going to Nigeria, that his son in Palo Alto started his Facebook page on which he has 350,000 friends. But how many enemies? Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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