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State Dept Takes Twitter Qs, Not on W. Sahara, Haiti, Burundi or Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- Amid press questions about Russia and Ukraine and the use of chlorine in Syria, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki begged off on Monday afternoon, saying "tune in," she would be answered questions on Twitter.

  When she did, Psaki took -- that is, retweeted then responsed to -- 17 questions, ranging from "How to fight Russian TV propaganda when 75% of Russians + many Ukrainians believe in Putin lies?" to "Apple or Android?" (To that, the answer was "love my govt issued bberry with extra battery, but also iphone addict.")

  Two of the 17 questions were about the African continent: Tunisia and Sudan, how to access Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. At 12%, Africa was much better represented in the Twitter Q&A than at the State Department briefings.

  Still, some timely questions went unanswered. From among the six questions Inner City Press submitted there were Western Sahara -- this is the month for the renewal, with or without a human rights monitoring mechanism, of the UN's MINURSO mission on which the US hold the pen -- Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan:

In South Sudan, after the killings in Bentiu and Bor, what is US State Dept thinking on sanctions? On both sides?

Has Burundi asked US help to probe itself? President & his youth wing met: comment?

Is or was there a US policy against describing the Rwanda genocide as being against the Tutsi? Please explain; and

US position on rights monitoring in Western Sahara? Novelli - Kosmos April 24?

  Unpacking this last, on April 24 Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Catherine Novelli is slated to meet with Western Sahara-involved Kosmos Energy's CEO Andy Inglis and the Senior International Policy Advisor at Covington and Burling LLP, Al Larson.

  Particularly since it seems Mr. Larson previously held Ms. Novelli's position, potentially raising revolving door issues, the purpose and a read-out of the meeting would be helpful.

  Last year the US said it was proposing a human rights monitoring mechanism for MINURSO. This year, French Ambassador Gerard Araud has vituperatively replied to human rights questions by saying French has no position, ask the US. Even YouTube from last April belies what Araud says. But should the US answer too?

  In-person at the State Department briefing on March 14, Inner City Press asked, and Psaki's deputy Marie Harf answered, a question Araud has refused to: about France's continued sale of Mistral warships to Russia, despite what France says about Crimea. This is called, double-speak.

  On April 24 there were also two legal / policy questions:

In light of Iran Ambassador-nominee visa denial, can the State Dept explain aiding immunity of Sri Lanka military man Shavendra Silva?

How is UN immunity for bringing cholera to Haiti, supported in US court filing, consistent with accountability?

  On this last, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesperson a question, in-person, at the UN's noon briefing on April 21, not yet answered.

  Comparing the UN's to the US State Department's briefing, it's notable that in Washington many more follow up quesions are allowed.

  Then again, the International Monetary Fund allows the journalists it accredits, like Inner City Press, to submit questions to its briefings online even if they are outside of DC. Will the State Department -- and the UN, as requested by the Free UN Coalition for Access -- move in that direction? Watch this site.


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