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Amid Privatized Talk of Syria Chemical Weapons, de Mistura Trashed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- That the Syrian chemical weapons victim and doctor who briefed the UN Security Council on April 16 did so behind closed doors, with no UN Television coverage, was a product of the Council's rules.

  It was an “Arria formula” meeting, which was not be listed in the UN Journal or even on the blue electronic signs outside it. (The sign said the meeting was about "nutrition.")

  Afterward chemical weapons victim Qusai Zakarya took some questions in the hall, before again going behind closed doors of the UN Censorship Alliance, see below.

  Inner City Press in this public space asked Qusai Zakarya what he thought of UN envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Qusai Zakarya said replied to Inner City Press, "I think Staffan de Mistura is a hypocrite. I think his very disgusting attempt to shine up the image of the regime is exposed to the Syrian poeple and to a nlot of members of the international community. His offer on freezes was a joke. If he really cared about saving lives he would have convinced the regime to stop using its fire power. We have a lot of outrage against his attempts, the deal he was trying to offer, it's just another false attempt to shine up the image of the regime."

   Inner City Press asked him if he would meet with any UN official. “I can't answer that questio right now,” he said. Then the convoy went to the clubhouse of the UN Censorship Alliance, which had sent notice only to those who pay it money: "They will have just presented their accounts in front of the UN Security Council at an Arria-formula meeting on Syria Chemical Weapons."

     But why would the doctors, in holding a supposed press conference afterward, not do so in the UN Press Briefing Room on UNTV, as can be done by any NGO or individual as long as sponsored by a member state?

    Instead, the sequel  show was also behind closed door, in the UN Censorship Alliance (UNCA), not on UNTV. This is the same UNCA which hosted former Syrian Coalition head Ahmad al Jarba, allowing him to claim he had a “UN press briefing.”  It is a scam, and it is a scam / sham and mistake the doctors are proceeding this way.

    UNCA and its board members have, for example, sought to get other journalists thrown out of the UN, for reporting on the financial relationship of UNCA's then and now president Giampaolo Pioli with an alleged war criminal, accepting rent money from him and later agree to screen his war crimes denial film inside the UN, under the UNCA banner.  If one has a case to make, this is not the place to make it.

  Even since its outright censorship bid, the way UNCA is run gives less and less confidence. On April 10, the UN Spokesperson's Office announced over its public address system that "in a few short moments in the UNCA room there will be a press conference by a State Department official."

   But as Inner City Press immediately reported, it wasn't any "press conference" -- it was off the record spin, typical of this UNCA now known as the UN's Censorship Alliance (the invitation they send to those who pay UNCA money is below.)

  Just before 5 pm, the UN Spokesperson's Office made a second public address system announcement: it was NOT a press conference, but rather an off the record presentation by the US State Department.

  All this in the big room the UN gives to UNCA, its Censorship Alliance. Why is the UN involved in this in any way at all?

  The announcement by UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli, sent only to those who pay UNCA money (then forwarded to Inner City Press along with messages of shock and disgust) said

"For correspondents interested in an informal off-the-record meeting with [the] Deputy Director, Media Hub of the Americas, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs, please join us in the UNCA Meeting Room, Friday, April 10th at 3:30pm.

"The meeting will be to explain the work of the State Department Public Affairs bureau that works with international media, to provide assistance in gaining better access to State Department officials and information, in addition to presenting the work done in the Media Hub of the Americas where the Director is the State Department spokesperson in Spanish and Portuguese for regional media and Spain and Portugal.

Thank you,

Giampaolo Pioli
UNCA President"

 Pioli's invite linked to a self-description of this US Bureau of Public Affairs, that “PA/IME works in close collaboration with State Department and interagency colleagues to create and manage tools to ensure accurate coverage of U.S. foreign policy by major international media.”

    UNCA represents only part of the UN press corps. This writer, for example, quit the group after 2012.  UNCA is said by UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric to receive the first question in the UN Press Briefing Room “by tradition,” even after UNCA's Executive Board tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN for its reporting about Sri Lanka, UN Peacekeeping and colonialism (Herve Ladsous) among other topics.

 UNCA did nothing when Ladsous adopted the policy of refusing to answer any questions from the investigative Press, and having his spokespeople physically grab the UNTV microphone to try to avoid the questions being heard.

  Now UNCA wants to facilitate “accurate coverage of U.S. foreign policy.” Does it perform this service for other countries?

    Inner City Press, like the new Free UN Coalition for Access which it co-founded after quitting UNCA, is not against "accurate coverage of US foreign policy." Last month, Inner City Press asked the US State Department about Yemen (including the decision not to evacuate Yemeni Americans from the country), Cuba (the US restrictions on its diplomats at the UN), the Maldives, Middle East and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In each case, Inner City Press reported the answers in full, where possible with video.

  But why provide this platform for one country and not others? Earlier on April 10 UNCA will have a presentation by a former US CIA employee who served in Saipan, Korea, Vietnam and "Burma," as the UNCA notice puts it.

  What has happened to this UNCA under Pioli and presumably current Executive Committee members from Reuters, the US Broadcast Board of Governors and ANSA? And how now can the UN continue to “partner” with UNCA, exclusively, using this partial group as a proxy for the wider press corps?

 Earlier on April 9, when the UN with little notice canceled its question and answer noon briefing in deference to a "press encounter" with Ban Ki-moon at which Dujarric handpicked the questioners and Ban notably did not call for a halt or even pause in airstrikes on Yemen, UNCA said nothing. (They will, however, have a "Prosecco toast" with Ban later in the month.)

 The Free UN Coalition spoke up in criticism, as here. We'll have more on and of this.


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