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As UK Presides Over Press Banning from UNSC, Going Social 1 Week

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 4 -- The UK at the UN are an idealistic lot, but in a conflicted way.

  As they revive the Security Council "horizon scanning" briefing for their Presidency in June, we too will scan their horizon, through the first week of their month.

  They say they want to be open: but only so far, and only in their way. They provide information, but often only those friendly to them, in a way that is controlling.

  We begin as we must by noting that Monday they presided over the first day in years in which a media worktable was not only not present, but was actively discouraged and seized, in front of the Council.

  The Mission saw this coming, even talked with members of the press corps on both sides of the issue -- shocking that there is an "anti-access" side among the media, but that's another story, one that we will tell this week as well -- but still it happened.

  As the UK began its bilateral meetings with other Missions on June 3, for the first time in years there was no table. Various Missions, to the level of Permanent Representative, commented on it and said it should not stand.

  But the UK seemed to think it was funny. Even after a small replacement table bought and brought by the new Free UN Coalition for Access was seized and taken away by the UN Department of Public Information, there was levity.

  Later on Monday Inner City Press was told not to engage in "personalization" in articles. But who to report without naming names? And with the UK so savvy now in social media, how not to name the handles?

   So this is how we'll do it, setting the deadline of the week: we'll cover the UK in precisely the way they have decided to make themselves available: not with media workspace presence in front of the Council, but through social media. And it will, as it must, be personal. One new name per story.

  Mark Lyall Grant rather than the ritual 12:30 press conference has moved it, and is having one online from 2:30 to 3, complete with hashtag. We'll be there, via hashtag. Can you spell #UNfreePress?

  Even over the weekend, the UK went public with a press statement it proposed about Qusayr in Syria, then selectively blamed one Mission for blocking it. (Inner City Press spoke with that Mission on Monday and heard their side of things: in person, not online.)

  The UK told some resident correspondents perceived as friendly the minister Alistair Burt would go do a stakeout about the Arms Trade Treaty. The goal, it seems, was to not have to answer the obvious contradiction: it was the UK that sought the "flexibility" to arm the Syrian rebels, while trumpeting the ATT.

  The ICRC calls it inconsistent, but who's counting? Control Arms apparently doesn't.

  Back in May, for Press Freedom Day, the UK put on its Tumblr page the statements of favored correspondents, presumably though it thought represent free press.

  But as we'll show this week, at least two of them have openly been quite anti-press, trying to get others thrown out of the UN, trolling and accusing journalist which whom they don't agree of being funded by Assad or, pertinent to the UK, by the defunct Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka.

  The UK Mission knows or should have known about this: but friends are friends, useful pass-throughs are just that. Press Freedom Day indeed.

  The issue of the table is telling. It was there before the Council moved, and during the relocation. The UK has presided, literally, over its elimination. It's a week of moves and getting settled in, Inner City Press is told. A week? We'll see. Watch this site.

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