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Ban Ki-moon Spox Stresses Pam Falk of CBS Didn't Submit Qs in Advance, Blocks

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 22 -- 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. Inner City Press uploaded video here, Inner City Press and Free UN Coalition for Access story here.

  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.

  Now on December 22, Dujarric has sent this, which we near-instantly publish:

Dear Matthew,

Just to make sure there's no misunderstanding, Pam Falk did not submit her question to me in advance of the SG's press conference on Wednesday. She had never submitted any question to me in advance.

Best, Steph

Via my Roman Tablet Mark VI

   Duly noted, or at least, published. Overall, the answer seems strange when compared to Inner City Press' specific question on December 18 about Ban on December 18 reading a particularly answer from notes. UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask and I would like to hear your answer to this, 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 Dujarric:  Those are the only words I can use.  So, anything else?  Yes, I'll come back to you.

  So why respond after a question about another question with a denial about "Pam Falk"? Pam Falk is Pamela Falk of CBS News, outgoing head of the UN Correspondents Association, whose past, present and future First Vice President says she is responsible for blocking Inner City Press from UNCA's near moribund Twitter accounts.

  A world in which that (and this sample audio) is consistent with freedom of the press, but the above must be emphasized, is too complex by half. There's more to say, but as noted, we publish it near-immediately.

    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.


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