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Russian Reporter Shows Syria Beheadings, Rebuffed by Pinheiro - & Sellstrom?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 30 -- The Russian Mission to the UN on Tuesday hosted a presentation and Q&A by television journalist Anastasia Popova. The lights in the chandeliers were turned down; on a screen people were beheaded by the armed opposition in Syria.

  In the half light Popova asked a series of rhetorical questions: why does Western media not show this? Why is this footage, albeit in Russian, not used in the UN, where Russia is one of the six official languages?

  When the lights came up, Inner City Press asked not only Popova but also Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Pankin if, in fact, TV and news reports can be used in the Security Council.

  Ambassador Pankin took the microphone and explained an agreement in the Council not to use media as proof. He went on to muse that while CNN is much viewed in the US, not so much in France or Switzerland. He said that Al Jazeera is mostly viewed if you speak Arabic.

Al Jazeera English was at the event and seemed to bristle. In her presentation, Popova mocked Al Jazeera (as well as Reuters) by name; she said the rebels sold their footage to Arabic satellite channels.

  Once Pankin had finished, Popova added that she offered information in Geneva to Paulo Pinheiro's inquiry on Syria but was rejected. They interviewed refugees who'd left Syria, and didn't trust Popova's interviews. Regarding another skeptic, she recounted being accused of torturing those she interviewed.

Inner City Press asked a second question, about the the alleged use of chemical weapons at Khan al Asal. Popova said she was there. Inner City Press asked, on what basis are you saying it was an opposition attack? Eyewitnesses, she said. Would Ban Ki-moon's prober Sellstrom consider this?

  Many in the audience were from Western media -- Reuters, Agence France Presse, Voice of America. Their questions were cagey: how did Popova get access to the opposition, since they hate Russia? Didn't she admit that at first the Syrian opposition was peaceful, popular and for democracy? (She didn't).

When it was over, a Russian diplomat formerly with the mission but no longer recounted a meeting with the Department of Public Information about translating materials into Russian. But being shown now, this month, on DPI's UN Television is an outside show in which the president of the UN Correspondents' Association (who came late and asked nothing) gushes that everyone was ready for transition in Libya.

   Really? This is an issue Inner City Press, and the Free UN Coalition for Access, is working on. Watch this site.

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