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UN Blacks Out Syria's Speech, Ban's Amateur Hour & Minute of Silence?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 -- When Kofi Annan gave a briefing by video to the UN General Assembly Thursday morning, though the press was not allowed in the conference room, the speech was broadcast on UN Television. So too the speeches by the Qatari President of the GA Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  But just as Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari took the floor to respond, UN TV went dark. To some it seemed, especially with regard to the speeches of Ban and the PGA, like hearing the prosecution but blacking out the defense -- and thereby even giving the defense an issue. Welcome to amateur hour.

  Inner City Press asked the spokeswoman for the PGA why UN TV had stopped broadcasting. It was agreed, she said. Inner City Press asked, "Agreed by whom?"

  Through the windows of the ECOSOC chamber, the Press could see the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia speaking, then another country which "raised its flag" or asked to speak but was not permitted.

  Meanwhile, despite the argument that it was a closed meeting, the French Mission to the UN was tweeting from inside, decrying the "rant" of the Syrian Ambassador. When French Permanent Representive Gerard Araud left mid-speech, Inner City Press asked him about the curtailed UNTV coverage but he did not answer. Cradle of media freedom?

  When the session was over several Permanent Representatives were critical of what they called "the PGA's use of the UN for Qatar's foreign policy." As Ban Ki-moon swept out and into the elevator up to his third floor office, Inner City Press asked why UN TV, which the Secretariat controls, was turned off.

  Thirty minutes later at the noon briefing by Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, Inner City Press asked why the cameras had been turned off. Nesirky said, as the PGA's spokeswoman had at some length, that it was an informal meeting, therefore not televised.

  Inner City Press asked, but why then was a portion of the informal meeting televised?

  Nesirky said, because there was public interest in it.

  But there was some interest in hearing from Syria, too, Inner City Press asked, trying to understand.

  You're not trying very hard to understand, Nesirky said. Moments later when Inner City Press asked him what Ban thought of Ja'afari's request that a moment of silence be observed for "all" the victims in Syria, and if Ban had observed it, Nesirky referred the question back to the PGA's spokeswoman.

  But it's a question for Ban: did he observe the requested moment of silence or not?

  Inner City Press recounted that in the untelevised portion of the meeting Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative said that if the Syrian government cared about victims, it would stop killing, and asked if Ban shares that view.

Nesirky said that Ban has spoken about the dead of Syria. Again, it's a question for Ban: did he observe the requested moment of silence or not?

   Once the noon briefing was over, Nesirky's office announced that Syria's Ja'afari would now hold a press conference at 3 pm. Watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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