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On Syria, Ban Holds UNbalanced 5-Question Presser, Bid for TV, Race for Relevance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- When the UN announced Ban Ki-moon would hold a press conference Monday at 11:30 am, some understandably assumed that he had news on Syria.

But with the room full of correspondents, Ban said "I have not yet received the report from Dr. Sellstrom, nor do I know what it will contain."

  Someone softly asked, then why are we here? The breaking news of the morning was Russia's Sergey Lavrov proposing that Syria give its chemical weapons stockpiles to the UN. But Ban's statement had nothing on that.

  After Ban's canned statement, he took a total of five questions. This was more than the two questions he took last Tuesday, also canceling the day's UN noon briefing on places the UN actually has an impact, like in Eastern Congo where the UN is selectively targeting some armed groups (M23) and not others (FDLR).

  Inner City Press had put its name on the question list. But only five were taken, and it was far from balance. The first question, by some unwritten and now archaic and indefensible rule, went to Pamela Falk of CBS, as the president of the UN Correspondents Association.

  One problem here is that under Falk, UNCA sponsored a faux "UN briefing" in late July by Saudi sponsored Syria rebel boss Jarba. The UN has refused to clarify on what basis it gives UNCA the big room it was held in, publicized only to those who pay money, and if it was a "UN briefing."

  Next was an UNCA Executive Committee member from L'Orient le Jour on whom we will not comment. Then Al Jazeera, which alongside excellent reporting on Haiti and the like totes the Qatari royal family's line on most things Middle East. Then two US media, Fox and Associated Press. And that was it.

  What was the goal of this exercise? It seems to have been to get Ban Ki-moon some face time on television, on the day Obama goes on six times, and Charlie Rose' interview with Assad (reviewed here by Inner City Press) goes on PBS.

  It was like the UN's Saturday briefing on August 31 - because it was an hour and a half before Obama spoke, or was scheduled to start, in the Rose Garden, it was picked up all over. The UN has a built-in bully pulpit. But how is it being used? Watch this site.


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