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At UN, Ban Ki-moon Spox "Ready" With Qs Before Press Conferences?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- At the UN, does Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demand and get questions in advance of his rare press conferences, the better to answer them?

  On December 17, it seemed that he did. Video here, Inner City Press and Free UN Coalition for Access story here.

  So on December 18, Inner City Press for FUNCA asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, for the record, if questions had been given in advance. Dujarric said, twice, that it is his job to get Ban Ki-moon ready for the press conference.

  Does that mean getting questions in advance? Dujarric repeated the same answer. Video here.  It seems that it does.

   On December 17 after Ban thanked some of those in the UN Press Briefing Room for inviting and celebrating him at a black-tie ball the previous night, the first question was set aside for the group that celebrated him, the UN Correspondents Association. Video here.

Outgoing UNCA president Pamela Falk asked Ban about Cuba, “since you've visit,” and Ban said he had been told in advance. While he added, by the US, he glanced down and read out a statement. Of course, Ban Ki-moon has no responsibility for or power over US policy on Cuba. Video here.

Ban was asked a soft question about the US torture report -- but NOT whether he thinks anyone should be prosecuted. Ban was asked a question about Ebola and another about the transatlantic slave trade from Africa.

  In response to the latter question, Ban read the entirety of his answer from a script. Video here.

Yes, it was in French. But if he's getting the questions in advance on this, why not others? And as another journalist in the room, not Inner City Press, said afterward, maybe he wasn't called on because he hasn't been willing to give his question in advance.

 It is not academic: the way Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric ran the December 17 press conference, no questions were taken on allegations that the UN covered up mass rapes in Darfur, and video that UN Peacekeepers shot democracy protesters in Haiti.

The Free UN Coalition for Access, formed because Ban's UNCA far from defending journalists tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, believes that questions should not be requested or given in advance of press conferences. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

Here's from the UN's December 18, 2014 transcript:

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask about the press conference held yesterday, if you can confirm or deny that at least certain of the questions were provided in advance to the Secretary-General and he read an answer to them.  And I ask this because it seems if we are here having what seems to be a press conference, it seems at least important to at least know if it's scripted.

Spokesman Dujarric:  No, I think the press conference is not scripted.  It's my job as the Secretary-General's Spokesman to be ready for this briefing and to be ready for… to help the Secretary-General be ready for his briefing.

Inner City Press: On the answer on the Transatlantic Slave Trade, his entire answer was read out.  And I'm saying this with all due respect, but is this normal?  Is it normal in a press conference to have an answer known in advance and an answer read out?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think, as I said, Matthew, it's my job to be ready for the briefings and to make sure the Secretary-General is ready for his.

Inner City Press:  Does that include knowing what questions will be asked?  There is a big difference.

Spokesman:  Those are the only words I can use.  So, anything else?  Yes, I'll come back to you.


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