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UK Positions on Somalialand, Press Freedom, Mau Mau, Echoes & Tweets

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 6 -- The UK is very concerned about Somalia. How else to explain their Africa Minister Mark Simmonds arriving in New York to chair a Somalia meeting of the UN Security Council under the UK's presidency, just as the UK's Nicholas Kay takes over the UN mission in Mogadishu?

  We say Mogadishu because it remain unclear, at least to us, what the UK's stance is on Somalialand, its former colony. The UN system handed over its airspace to Mogadishu as well, despite the impact on flights which could have but were not replaced by the EU-funded "Humanitarian Air Service."

  Somaliland couldn't even get their letter to the Security Council circulated to the 15 members earlier this year. Even news of the letter was tightly controlled. But has that become the UK way?

  As we've inquired into since May, and reported on each day this month, the UK is literally presiding over the roll-back in (new) media access to the Security Council from what existed not only during the Council's renovation relocation but also before it.

  Before, there was a media worktable right by the Council's entrance and journalists could work there with laptops and speak to diplomats and UN officials like Kay now in as they met in and out of the Council.

Now there is a rule, agreed to by the old UN Correspondents Association executive committee largely dominated by UK favorite Reuters as wells the BBC which for now provides:

"f. The Security Council stakeout area, including the Turkish Lounge, is not to be used as a permanent workspace for the media."

Even a small fold-able table set up by the new Free UN Coalition for Access on June 3, the first working day of the UK presidency, was seized and taken away. Very funny.

  Then when Inner City Press for FUNCA asked UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant if he supported continued media workspace at the Council and if so what he would do about it, Lyall Grant said this is a matter for the UN Department of Public Information and "the journalists" -- it's becoming clear which journalists. Even the UK's transcript of Lyall Grant's press conference mis-represents the questions. Is always easier to dodge a question other than the one asked. Compare transcript to UN web cast video, from Minute 17:32.

Who is responsible? In other news, the UK apologizes for Mau Mau torture - but says it is not liable.

So coming full circle, what will be the UK's position on press freedom in Somalia, say? They want to be close to the new government, and so operate with kid gloves.

Even when, despite their position on blog-style new media reporting at the Security Council, their diplomats respond on social media, as UK ambassador to Jordan Peter Millett did yesterday, they speak in grand principles which are not tied down and applied what's actually in front of them, like Jordon blocking over 200 web sites. We are, as noted, experimenting. Watch this site.

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