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At UN, Nuke Free Latin America Gets Award, No Q&A Allowed on Malvinas & UK

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- On Wednesday the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the World Future Council and the Inter-Parliamentary Union invited the media to a 30 minute UN press conference "to announce the Future Policy Award 2013 for the world’s best disarmament policies."

  Seeing in the front row an official associated with the "Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean," it seemed that at least some had been told in advance of the winner.

  But Inner City Press live-tweeted the naming of honorable mentions from Belgium, Costa Rica, Mozambique / South Africa and Mongolia, and Silver awards to Argentina and New Zealand. (The description of each policy provided in advance is below.)

  The UNODA moderator said there would be time for questions, and Inner City Press had one, even tweeted it to UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant in advance for comment: what about the nuclear protests of the UK and Malvinas / Falkland Islands?

  The prepared statement giving the award mentioned Cuba hosting nuclear weapons. But what about the UK?

  But the prepared statements were allowed to take up the full 30 minutes. Inner City Press raised its hand, and prepared to protest on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info. A press briefing must allow questions; otherwise journalists are being used as "extras" in a made for video production.

  But grabbing the first question as has become an untenable routine, the president of the UN Correspondents Association, Pamela Falk of CBS, proceeded to THANK those who gave the questionless press conference. Then she used the privilege to ask her own question.

Her sidekick, too, wanted to ask a question, about the IAEA. But the main question had to be: how could this be organized this way?

  And if about Latin America and nuclear weapons, how could the UK and Malvinas not be mentioned? Inner City Press asked, and the panelist agreed it should be raised, the UK cuts its budget but not nuclear.

We have yet to hear back from the normally responsive Ambassador Lyall Grant on this. Here were the seven short listed finalists:

1. Argentina – National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms, 2006 [Silver]

2. Belgium – Law on Anti-personnel Mines, 1995 and the Law regulating Economic and Individual Activities with Weapons, 2006.

3. Costa Rica – Abolition of the Army, Article 12 of the Constitution, 1949.

4. Mongolia – Law of Mongolia on its nuclear-weapon-free status, 2000.

5. Mozambique and South Africa – Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Mozambique and the Government of the Republic of South Africa in Respect of Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in the field of Crime Combating, 1995.

6. New Zealand – New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act, 1987 [Silver]

7. Latin America and the Caribbean– Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, Treaty of Tlatelolco, 1967 [Winner - Malvinas not shown]

This evening the awards will be given out, alongside a UN First (Disarmament) Committee reception. Watch this site.

Footnotes: At the noon briefing, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky announced there would only only five minutes of questions. For FUNCA, Inner City Press asked why this was, how the questionless press conference before was permissible.

  Nesirky replied not to waste what little time he granted on a "technical" question -- Inner City Press also asked about Sudan's statement of what the UN's Herve Ladsous, who dodges questions, heard about visas -- then said tomorrow's another day.

It is, but the shrinking of media / question access remains a pattern, one not being confronted (in fact, being allowed and encouraged) by the Gulf and Western media on the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association, now known as Ban's UN Censorship Alliance.

 The point here, at a minimum, is that the UN must allow another press group to exist, rather than trying to threaten the withdrawal or suspension of accreditation for hanging the sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access while its UNCA has five signs.

 Before the disarmament briefing, a UN staffer had put a rain coat over the "UNCA chair," so Falk could occupy it when arriving late. But occupy it for what? Watch this site.


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