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On DRC & Sudan, After Ban Ki-moon Spoke to UNCA's 13 Opaque Apostles, No Transcript?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9 – The day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky refused to provide any transcript of Ban's February 7 session with 13 members of the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee, one of member was asked by FUNCA to release his tape to all reporters accredited at the UN.

  Nesirky acknowledged that beyond the four-paragraph, three issue highlighs belated provided to reporters beyond the UNCA 13, Ban spoke about the Democratic Republic of Congo and about Sudan. But neither was in the highlights.

  The omission or withholding of DRC information echoes the UN's January 25 doling out of anonymous quotes essentially declaring war in the Congo with a "peace enforcement" batallion that those media running the quotes said would be approved that weekend in Addis Ababa.

   That did not happen, but there were no corrections, no accountability.

   What did Ban say this time on DRC?

  But Nesirky replied, “no, we will not provide a full transcript. Part of the conversation was on the record, part of the conversation was off the record.”

   This implies that Ban and/or Nesirky only trusts these UNCA Thirteen to abide by off the record requests.

   But are these 13, the apostles of opacity, the only ones who could be trusted? And should they be trusted?

   As noted, Inner City Press had rushed to the day's noon briefing, to ask the transcript question on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, arriving just at noon from an 11 am off the record briefing at a Security Council's member's mission

  There, and subsequently on an anonymous social media account involving UNCA Executive Committee members and in a flyer posted on the door of Inner City Press' cubicle at the UN, a woman who before the off the record briefing alleged past sexual harassment was mocked, with involvement of at least some of the 13.

   We add “some of,” because UNCA Executive Committee member Denis Fitzgerald wrote it to state that he was not at briefing at the mission and is not “part of a fake social media account.” His statement was added less then 20 minutes after he sent it.

 Fitzgerald was in the UN Photo of the 13 with Ban, re-tweeted by UNCA President Pamela Falk.

Ban Ki-moon's UNCA Lunch of the Lost, Feb 7, 2013, credit Evan Schneider, UNPhoto. From left: OSSG's Del Buey; Denis Fitzgerald of Saudi Press Agency; OSSG's Nesirky; Melissa Kent of CBC; Sylviane Zehil of L'Orient le Jour; Tim Witcher of AFP; Ali Barada of An-Nahar; Ban Ki-moon, Kahraman Halicelik of Turkish Radio & TV; Pamela S. Falk of CBS; Lou Charbonneau of Reuters; Bouchra Benyoussef of Maghreb Arab Press; Yasuomi Sawa of Kyodo News; Masood Haider of Dawn; Unknown; Zhenqiu Gu of Xinhua; Stephane Dujarric of UN DPI

 Others in the photo who WERE at the referenced mission's off the record briefing included Louis Charbonneau of Reuters; Tim Witcher of AFP; Ali Barada of An-Nahar; Kahraman Halicelik of Turkish Radio & TV; and Masood Haider of Dawn, as well as several members of the board of UNCA's affiliate the Dag Hammarskjold Fund for Journalism.

   After Fitzgerald's statement was added, less than 20 minutes after he sent it, Fitzgerald was directly asked, by the Free UN Coalition for Access, three questions including to “release any and all recordings of the February 7 session with Ban Ki-moon to all reporters accredited at the UN.”

  We believe the request is fair for the following reasons:

  While Fitzgerald is employed by the Saudi Press Agency and also maintains a small blog named UN Tribune (the last post on which is an uncritical transcription of the UN Peacekeeping chief on drones), it is clear he was only at the Ban Ki-moon February 7 briefing because he is an UNCA Executive Committee member.

  Of all reporters covering the UN, only the 15 UNCA Executive Committee member were invited. Thirteen went.

  The UNCA Executive Committee purports to represent and serve at least the other UNCA members, if clearly not the resident correspondents who are not members of UNCA, nor the vast majority of other reporters who cover and even enter the UN.

  But the UNCA Executive Committee members did not distribute the information they obtained even to other UNCA members. Now the request has been formally made – and the response, disingenuous, is only, Who is FUNCA? Who indeed.

  The UNCA Executive Committee not only communicates through an anonymous social media account and counterfeit FUNCA flyers and grafitti – they often send out e-mail messages signed only “UNCA Office.”

  When one checks that out one finds an individual, employed and paid by whom it is not clear, but with a “P” journalist's pass from the UN.

  In the parlance of the UN Accreditation Guidelines, on which we will soon have more to say, is UNCA a “bona fide media organization”? Watch this site.

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