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UN Bans Syria & DRC Questions For Piano, Nuremberg & Sri Lanka Double Speak

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 28 -- What stories does the UN want to tell, and what questions should it be required to answer?

On Monday after a weekend of armed conflict in the Congo, with one Tanzanian soldier killed, and with Syria's chemical weapons report due and turned in, the UN did not hold its normal noon briefing.

Why not? Instead Secretary General Ban Ki-moon showed up at noon to read out prepared remarks, but taking no questions, to introduce the pianist Lang Lang as a UN goodwill ambassador. The piano sounded fine -- but why cancel the noon briefing for this?

It is sometimes said that even when the UN noon briefing is canceled, for example for Ban to take two pre-selected questions on Syria, the Spokesperson's office will answer e-mailed questions and "highlights" will be put online.

Well, Inner City Press asked a question by email:

"On Friday I asked if UN Force Intervention Brigade was involved in fighting between FARDC and M23 and was told 'no.' Now I hear that a Tanzanian soldier in the FIB was killed in fighting in Kiwanja. Please confirm (or deny) this, and describe UN and Force Intervention Brigade in fighting between FARDC and M23."

More than twenty four hours later, the question had not been answered, leaving French ambassador Gerard Araud's response, here, as in essence the UN's response.

  After the piano display, and after Ban's UN Censorship Alliance (UNCA) legitimized the cancellation of the noon briefing by asking inane questions like whether Lang Lang will go to Syria, there WAS a press conference in the UN's Press Briefing Room.

  UN special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas spoke on a wide range of topics, including whether the Permanent Five members of the Security Council should have the veto and otherwise control the UN.

  Inner City Press asked Zayas to comment on the P5 controlling the UN's departments -- the US has twice in a row controlled Political Affairs, the UK has had OCHA twice, France has controlled UN Peacekeeping four times in a row, hitting its nadir with Herve Ladous, video here, UK coverage here -- and then something else.

  Cursory internet research found complaints about de Zayas, including for saying this about the Nuremberg trials: "Nuremberg was an exercise in hypocrisy. A continuation of hate and war by the instrumentalization of the administration of justice, a corruption of legal norms and procedures, a pollution of philosophy, a truly Pharisee tribunal."

  Inner City Press asked him about it, and he answered about victors' justice and the ICC (true in the case of Cote d'Ivoire and Libya, for sure); he said UN posts should be subject to geographic distribution. He handed out material at the end, asking for help with "media promotion."

  So what stories are told, and what questions blocks, in today's UN?

  In the morning a more focused rapporteur Pablo De Greiff spoke on "truth, justice, reparations & non-recurrence." Inner City Press asked how these apply to Sri Lanka, a report on which Ban Ki-moon is not only withholding -- its existence is even being denied after Inner City Press exclusively published a leaked copy.

  Pablo De Greiff said he couldn't speak directly about things that are being considered, but that development is not the same thing as reparation, it does not "re-establish the norm." So if the UN ever gets around to stopping withholding (and denying) its own report, maybe it will listen. If the piano is not too loud. Watch this site.

Footnote: The Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info objected to the cancellation of the noon briefing, and for that reason did not even seek to ask any questions in the piano replacement. De Zayas it thanked "for the opportunity to ask this question" about Nuremberg. With whom did and does the UN consult before deciding that "media" prefers piano over Q&A? We'll have more on this.


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