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French Delegation Orders Press Out of UN Briefing Room for Hollande

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 23 -- The entourage of French President Francois Hollande repeatedly ordered UN accredited Press to leave the UN's Press Briefing Room on September 23.

  A briefing by Hollande had been scheduled for 11 am, then was canceled. But at 10:55 am as a previous briefing about climate change was ending, Inner City Press was told to leave the room.

  The question, On whose orders? was not answered. Instead a woman in the French delegation said the room was "reserved."

   This is not a restaurant, Inner City Press replied, now on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which advocates for the rights of journalists and for a Freedom of Information Act covering the UN.

  Another member of the French delegation said loudly, "They'll take away his accreditation." It was not necessarily an idle threat: the UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had looked into the room as this happened.

   Inner City Press said, if UN Media Accreditation -- or UN Security -- tell me to leave, I will. But not before. Video here.

  Meanwhile the representative of the old UN Correspondents Alliance meekly left; previously, UNCA did nothing when previous French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud in this room told a Lebanese reporter, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent."

  After a time, the woman from Hollande's entourage said that the chief of UN Media Accreditation, whom she made a point of saying she knows well, was not answering the phone. A French security guard told Inner City Press to leave. But this is not their role, in the UN briefing room.

  Finally the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius and the new Permanent Representative to the UN came and sat in the front room with Inner City Press and FUNCA.  Hollande appeared from the doorway Spokesman Dujarric had looked out of.

  Hollande said he had come mostly about climate change, but that a French citizen had been taken hostage in Algeria by a group linked with ISIL or "Da'ech," as he called the group. He said arms deliveries would continue; he noted the previous night's air strikes, by others, on Syria.

  Hollande said he would meet in the afternoon with the Syrian Opposition Coalition's Hadi al Bahra, who he called the only legitimate leader of Syria. Then he left without taking questions.

  The day before, UNCA hosted al Bahra (as they had his predecessor Ahmad Jarba) in the clubhouse the UN gives this group, publicized only to those which pay it dues. Given that UNCA did nothing when Araud told the Lebanese reporter "you are not a journalist, you are an agent," why didn't Hollande hold his press conference in the club of UNCA, the UN's Censorship Alliance?

While more than two dozen countries pledged support for Iraq against the Islamic State in the Security Council on September 19, who would speak on UNTV about it?

  For more than an hour the media was told that French foreign minister Laurent Fabius would be “coming to the stakeout” to take questions on UNTV. It was pushed back, then when finally Fabius emerged he rushed past the stakeout into the hallway, where he spoke only in French.
 Update: to be fair, the French Mission put out this transcript.

  So too with Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. When he emerged from the Security Council, he summoned Turkish media down the hallway for a private stakeout. Some non-Turkish journalists weren't allowed to go, something protested by the Free UN Coalition for Access. But why not openly take questions?

  The three on-camera stakeouts that occurred were by Syria's Bashar Ja'afari, Iraq's Foreign Minister Jaafari (no relation, if that needs to be said), and Canada's John Baird. To the last of these, Inner City Press asked if before any bombing in Syria consent should be sought from Damascus or the Council. That has “yet to be determined,” Baird replied.

  Iraqi FM Jaafari, when Inner City Press asked if the Coalition should speak with Syria, seemed to dodge the question. But at least he took questions on camera, as did Syria's Ja'afari. Where were the others? Is this how GA Week will be? FUNCA in is on the case, including about faux UN press conferences like those held in the private club handed out by the UN to its Censorship Alliance. That group tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, now masquerades on media freedom. This is how the UN works. Watch this site.


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