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On Syria, UN's Amos Omits Nusra to Whom Ladsous Ordered Surrender

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 30, updated -- When UN aid chief Valerie Amos spoke on Syria to the Security Council on September 30, one expected her to describe the impact of the airstrikes in Syria by the US and five Arab kingdoms which began fully eight days before on September 22.

  But Amos stuck to the script, a written report with a cut-off date of September 17. Thus she did not mention the reports of airstrikes hitting grain mills in Manjib. One question is, will she ever?

Update: Amos in public also did not mention the "other" UN-named terrorist group in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra. Inner City Press has learned that in the closed-door consultations that followed, Amos presented a map of who controls what in Syria, listing ISIL-affiliates groups and then, in another color, other groups. That includes Al Nusra -- that is, Nusra and the Free Syrian Army. We'll have more on this.

   Syrian Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari came out of the Security Council. Off-camera, he told Inner City Press that the airstrikes since September 22 -- the only day on which he said Syria was notified by the US -- have killed "only 14 Da'esh" or ISIL fighters.

  On UNTV camera, Inner City Press asked Ja'afari about the impact of the strikes; he said the number of civilians casualties is not yet known but when he has the information, he will provided it.

  Inner City Press asked about the order by UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous that troops from Fiji and the Philippines surrender to Al Nusra. Ja'afari said Ladsous has not gotten back to Syria -- strange, given that it hosts a peacekeeping mission, and that Ladsous met untransparently with Sudan's Omar al Bashir.

  But Ladsous is getting more and more selective, more recently blocking Inner City Press' camera and then taking his favored scribes away from the scheduled (and canceled) stakeout for a "briefing." Video here from Minute 1:19.

  The UN released its August 19 - September 17 Syria aid access report for September in an even more pre-spun way than it did on April 23, then on May 22, on June 20 and then on July 24 and August 28. The UN has declined or refused to reform its broken "gray lady" system. This report cuts off on September 17 -- before the airstrikes by the US and five Kingdoms.

  The new report, cutting off on September 17, says "Government forces also shelled and undertook airstrikes against ISIL positions in the northern and eastern parts of the country in an attempt to stop ISIL."  What about the US and five Kingdom's airstrikes?

  Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access went to the UN Spokesperson's Office on September 29, the eve of the Security Council's month meeting, and asked for an explanation why rather than reform the pre-spin system, the reports are simply not pre-released. There was no explanation.

Update II: on September 30, the UN Spokesperson's office put the report, dated September 23, into its "Gray Lady." What was the point? We'll have more on this. The UN should be transparent.

 The new report goes on, "Government- controlled cities and towns continued to be subject toindiscriminate mortar attacks, shelling and vehicle-borne improvised explosivedevices by armed opposition, extremist and designated terrorist groups, notably in
Aleppo and Damascus governorates. For example, in Aleppo city, extensive shellingin the Khalideah residential and commercial area at the beginning of September resulted in the deaths of eight civilians, including women and children."
 On a group neither listed with ISIL and Al Nursa, nor (formally) with the Free Syrian Army, the new UN report says "On September 5, armed opposition groups took control of the Dokhanya and Ein Tarma suburbs of Damascus and engaged government forces in Midan and Zahira al Jadida, located less than 2 km from the Old City. A similar operation took place in Teshrine district, north of Damascus. On 16 September, one of the main Islamic Front factions (Ajnad al Sham) announced the beginning of a second phase of rocket attacks on the centre of Damascus."

   In the new system, selective reports circulate for days before the UN's actual report.

  The spoon-fed pre-spinner, ironically, has engaged in censorship of other leaks, click here for, here for critique by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

  As Inner City Press reported here, Australia along with Luxembourg and Jordan pushed a  resolution on Syria aid access.

  Again, the UN report does not directly address calls in Washington to support the Free Syrian Army -- which is still listed by another part of the UN as recruiting and using child soldiers.

  On ISIL, the report continues in Paragraph 8: "ISIL continues to increase its influence in the Syrian Arab Republic, predominantly along the main supply lines in rural central Homs, Hama, Rif
Dimashq, southern Hasakeh and western Aleppo. It also continues to fight for the control of border crossings and natural resources. During the reporting period, it made advances in Raqqa, Hasakeh, and Aleppo governorates following clashes with Government forces."

  How has the pre-spinning worked, or not worked? Back on July 24 at 11:15 am US state media began tweeting about the report. Inner City Press went to the Spokesperson's Office and asked if it had been put out as described below. No, was the answer.

  But 15 minutes later, the Spokesperson's Office squawked that the report had been distributed to the Council, and there is then was in the "gray lady" -- the only UN report still distributed this way -- no reports on Africa are.

 Back on June 20, just before 6 pm, the UN Spokesperson's Office announced over its "squawk" system to correspondents still in the building that the report had been circulated. This meant it had been placed in piece of furniture in the Spokesperson's Office which has sat empty for many days now.

  Apparently only these Syria reports are now pre-released, pre-announced and pre-spun.

  In terms of the Spokesperson's duty to answer questions, there was by closure on June 20 no answer to Inner City Press' request to confirm or deny Ban Ki-moon was handed legal papers about the introduction of cholera into Haiti as he entered the Asia Society, Inner City Press coverage here.

  Back on May 22 the UN's go-to wire service, which has also tried to get other media thrown out, gushed that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's "toughly worded report... said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government bore the greater responsibility."

   This wire's report didn't mention the Free Syrian Army displacing people (in the report) or the FSA recruiting child soldiers (in another recent UN report, which Inner City Press noted here.)

  Nor did it mention, for example, "45,000 in areas besieged by opposition forces in Nubul and Zahra." The number remains the same in the June 20 report.

   As we diplomatically sketched on April 23 hoping for some reform, the UN Spokesperson's Office makes "advance copies" of reports available. That is fine - but there is no consistency in who they tell of the availability of reports or how they make the announcement.

  Showing bias, they only "squawk" over the internal intercom system some but not all reports.

  Now this inconsistency applies to pre-releasing some but not all reports. Who decides? How?

   Using the squawk system rather than e-mailing all resident correspondents favors media, like the UN friendly wire, which have a person sitting in their office -- for example a person who filed a "for the record" complaint against another media, than scammed Google into banning the leaked complaint from Search, misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, click here for that.

  Other international organizations handle this with less bias. The IMF gives accredited media like Inner City Press embargoed copies of documents, and hold embargoed briefings to which accredited journalists anywhere in the world can pose questions, then wait and report at the embargo time. The UN must improve: and the Free UN Coalition for Access is working on this.

  Other have complained about this murky UN practices; others still a month ago asked FUNCA to wait a week before proposing reforms, which it did. But where are any reforms? We will continue to Press.

   If the Gulf & Western insiders on the board of the UN Correspondents Association, which tried to get other media thrown out of the UN, have a problem with disclosure, they too should push the UN to reform. But they won't even reform themselves, and for example commit not to seek the expulsion of other media from the UN.

  The current spokesperson has taken sides on this and other things; it is time for reform. If Ban Ki-moon is so tough and principled, why was he praising the president of Sri Lanka just after a report showed him seeking to "go all the way" and kill all his opponents? This all circles back. We'll have more on this.

Further back-ground: On April 30 when UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos took media questions, Inner City Press asked her about two paragraphs of her report on Syria, the advance copy of which was released on April 23 as analyzed below.

   Paragraph 47 disclosed 25 UN staff members detained. Inner City Press asked, by whom? Amos said by both the government and the armed groups.

 The June 20 report, in Paragraph 44, says "29 UN staff (27 UNRWA and 2 UNDP) are currently detained of which four are missing."

   The Free UN Coalition for Access has repeatedly asked, including at UN noon briefings, why these reports don't just go online for all to see. The response, off-camera, has been to allow translation into the UN's official six languages. Really?

  The result is that stories are written, for example here by Reuters, that focus on the Syrian government while the report has whole sections about Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS, et al. Is this retyping really "reporting" by the Reuters bureau chief, who himself is engaged in censorship, here?

 Despite the lack of any stated rule in this regard,  FUNCA and Inner City Press have been criticized for even questioning or reporting on this anti-public process. A previous UN spokesperson told Inner City Press the reason for stealth is that "the member states" would like pre-release before translation. But doesn't the Secretariat WORK for member states? Or is this how they buy the fealty of the scribes?

   But if Gulf media immediately scans and puts the advance copy online, where is the mystery? Where is the double standard? Wouldn't it be better for the UN itself to put the report online when available?

 And then not, as it did on Western Sahara, change the report after getting pushed around? FUNCA is and will remain for UN transparency and fair treatment. And FUNCA maintains there should be answers -- including from UN Under Secretaries General -- and written rules. The UN has outright refused to explain why for example the Turkish Cypriot leader Eroglu was allowed to speak on UNTV but Polisario is not. The lack of rules only benefits the powerful: media, corporations, countries.

     When Qatar sponsored an event at the UN in New York on March 21 featuring the Syrian Coalition headed by Ahmad al Jarba, a group calling its the Syrian Grassroots Movement held protests seeking to oust Jarba.

   By March 22, the group stated that some 40,000 people in 58 cities inside Syria had participated in demonstrations to get Jarba out of his post, saying "it is time to put an end to political corruption."

  Back in September 2013, France sponsored an event in the UN and called Jarba the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. French Ambassador Gerard Araud was the first questioning at Qatar's March 21 Syrian Coalition event. What is France's position now? Who chooses the leaders?

  Likewise, back in July 2013 and earlier this month, the Jarba-led Syrian Coalition held faux "UN" events in the clubhouse Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat gives to the largely Gulf and Western UN Correspondents Association. How does that now appear, in light of the anti-Jarba protests?

   Qatar's March 21 event was not listed in the UN Journal nor in the UN Media Alert. It was not on the UN's publicly available webcast.

  Select media outlets were there, when Inner City Press came in at the end to ask a question: Al Jazeera on the podium in Qatar's event, Al Arabiya like a Saudi diplomat -- not the Permanent Representative -- in the audience along with Al Hayat, even Al Hurra, on whose Broadcasting Board of Governors US Secretary of State John Kerry serves.

   The new Free UN Coalition for Access is against faux UN events, in the clubhouse the Secretariat gives to what's become its UN Censorship Alliance or elsewhere.

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