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As UN Is Asked of Ban Ki-Moon's Fairness, UNTV Was Cut Off, Censorship?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8, updated Feb 11 – How low will the UN sink, to cover up questions about its fairness? Apparently so low as to censor or cut off the normal webcast video of its own noon briefings. See here, at Minute 13.

   At this February 8 noon briefing, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked why Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had on February 7 doled out quotes and lunch to 13 Executive Committee members of the UN Correspondents Association.

  UNCA is a group which spent months in 2012 trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, as shown by documents obtained by Inner City Press under the US Freedom of Information Act.

   Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky insisted that “the Secretary General does not have to justify or explain his social calendar.”

   But the February 7 session was in Ban's office, and involved giving on the record quotes to select journalists, which were only summarized to some others after 6 pm, after at least Agence France Presse (whose UNCA board member in 2012 and now is Tim Witcher) and Xinhua had published stories with the quotes.

  Many see this as unfair, and as Ban improperly taking sides in a controversy between two organizations.

   Inner City Press was in the middle of asking why Ban would be encouraging wire service to join UNCA or not to get the information, as at least one wire service which is a member of FUNCA did not, when the UN Television webcast video just cuts off, at Minute 13:08. Click here.

   A tape recording of the noon briefing shows that the exchange went on for another minute, most of it Nesirky saying that another global wire service – Associated Press – used the belated Ban quotes and did not complain. (As Inner City Press has noted, AP that same day mis-identified UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant as “Mary” Lyall Grant.)

   Then Nesirky refused to take any more questions, on Darfur or any other topic. Since other UN Communications officials have been critical of these abrupt endings, are THEY responsible for censoring the video? The question should be answered. Watch this site.

Footnote: It is worth contrasting this UNTV cut-off when the question of Ban Ki-moon's fairness was raised to the full UNTV coverage of rants by UNCA Executive Committee members.

  There was for example a rant by an UNCA vice president just on February 5 about the $1.23 price of water in the UN cafeteria (video here from Minute 16:45).

  That same day, there was also the UNCA president's self-serving speech claiming to be opposing a wall by the Security Council that UNCA chose not to inform itself about or fight in 2012. Video here from Minute 4:39. So the unfairness continues - for now.
Watch this site.

Update of February 11 -- at Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked spokesman Nesirky why the UNTV webcast archive cut off before his final answer. He quipped that Inner City Press had "had the last word." Then two hours later, this:

Subject: Your question on the Friday Webcast
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 2:46 PM
To: Matthew [dot] Lee [at]

Because of a technical difficulty, the recording of last Friday's noon briefing was incomplete. It has now been replaced online with a full recording. Here is the link:

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