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On Syria, UN Defends Ban Ki-moon's Questionless Encounter, After $2B Renovation, No Wi-Fi

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon refused to take any questions on his Syria chemical weapons probe, after much promotion of his “press encounter” on the topic, media dissatisfaction was widespread.

  Inner City Press, after uploading video of the question-less encounter and some of the disorganization which preceded it (haphazard screening of print journalists, elevators up to the 38 floor and then down again, stakeout in a UN lobby location without wi-fi), conferred and for the Free UN Coalition for Access submitted a letter of complaint to the Department of Public Information.

  FUNCA primarily complained that Ban should take questions from the media; that is the purpose of a “press encounter.” By contrast, Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari has scheduled a press conference for April 30 at 10:30 am at which it seems sure he will take questions. Why doesn't Ban?

  DPI has been sitting on specific requests submitted by FUNCA on April 18 and before, including a dozen proposed reforms to its archaic Media Accreditation rules and Access Guidelines (to which the old UN Correspondents' Association is a party, or collaborator).

  But this time DPI sent back a response quickly, albeit not from its chief but rather the head of UNTV, and main UNCA partner, Stephane Dujarric.

  On Ban's questionless press encounter or “fakeout at the stakeout,” Dujarric wrote:

From: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Date: Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 4:17 PM
Subject: Fw: FUNCA response to S-G's press "encounter" this morning, outstanding questions, thanks
To: funca [at] funca [dot] info
Cc: Isabelle Broyer [at]

Thank you for the email you addressed to DPI this morning regarding issues you had with the Secretary-General's appearance before the press.

I'm truly sorry that you felt the event was not organized properly and wasted your time. I would ask you to show some flexibility. Due to the large number of journalists present, a decision was made to change the location of the event to one that would be more comfortable all those involved, including the Secretary-General. Sometimes things change at the last minute and we just all have to go with the flow.

As for the event itself, you complain that the Secretary-General took no questions and that it should not have been called a “press encounter.” I frankly don’t know what to call an event when the Secretary-General encounters the press but a “press encounter.” There are clearly different types of press encounters and sometimes questions are taken and sometimes they are not depending on the circumstances.

No one wants to waste your time but please understand that your presence is not mandatory and that you are free to attend or not to attend any event at the UN. I have no way of guaranteeing that press events at the UN will not be a waste of your time. In planning these events we can only hope that you will find them useful.

There is currently no wi-fi in the north end of the Secretariat lobby but I do very much hope that wi-fi coverage will be extended through out the building as soon as practicable.

  The response largely speaks for itself. But just on the last point: no wi-fi after a $2 billion renovation?

  Would the UN call Ban speaking to UNTV (run by Dujarric) a "press encounter"?

 And will Ban hold another "encounter" after Syria's press conference on April 30? Or will a Western power's ambassador do it?

Footnote: We said Dujarric is UNCA's main supporter (and even an opponent of anything more than a one party system) and here are just a few reasons. Dujarric complained when Inner City Press published audio of UNCA president Pamela Falk screaming in an on the record meeting, audio here and here.

This month, Dujarric threatened Inner City Press about a single tweet that mentioned World War Two and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous who owes his JOB to France's veto power won in WW2.

  Dujarric has refused to explain how photos taken during a non-consensual raid of Inner City Press' office on March 18 were leaked to BuzzFeed on March 21, right after that publication contacted Ban's spokesman with questions about the raid. We will continue to push on all this. Watch this site.

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