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Hollande Day Two, No Formal Exclusion, Just Softball Qs, No CAR or Mali

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- The day after the entourage of French President Francois Hollande repeatedly ordered the UN accredited Press to leave the UN's Press Briefing Room, on September 24 Hollande held an "open" press conference.

  But after he focused on the French hostage killed in Algeria, the first question was set aside for the old UN Correspondents Association, which not only said nothing about the previous day's abuse of power by the French delegation, but subserviently complied with the order to leave the UN briefing room.

  This time, the head of UNCA was the only flack allowed on the first row (at the other end was a French military man) and asked why France isn't bombing Syria as well as Iraq, other than "you can't do everything." There was some groaning. The difference is obvious: the Iraqi government ASKED for bombing its territory, the government in Syria has not. But still the question: why aren't you bombing Syria?

  Hollande was asked by the second questioner if France is subservient. He rattled on several "firsts," including first to send weapons. They did it in Libya too, air-dropping weapons into the Nafusa mountain that may well still be killing civilians in Syria. Plus ca change.

   A second UNCA insider was called on, the one who had subserviently left the briefing room on September 23, but no one would hear the question.

   A sharp question ended it -- what did France try to do for the hostage -- but Hollande encouraged less reporting, for the family.

  Inner City Press, hand raised throughout, wanted to asked about Central African Republic. But no. No questions on FrancAfrique, the former French colonies France also sends armed men into.

  France has offered asylum for Christians chased out of Iraq, rightly so. But why not to Muslims it has allowed to be changed out of Bangui? The question wasn't taken. This is how it works, or doesn't.

  On September 23 a briefing by Hollande had been scheduled for 11 am, then was canceled. But at 10:55 am as a previous briefing about climate change was ending, Inner City Press was told to leave the room.

  The question, On whose orders? was not answered. Instead a woman in the French delegation said the room was "reserved."

   This is not a restaurant, Inner City Press replied, now on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which advocates for the rights of journalists and for a Freedom of Information Act covering the UN.

  Another member of the French delegation said loudly, "They'll take away his accreditation." It was not necessarily an idle threat: the UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had looked into the room as this happened.

   Inner City Press said, if UN Media Accreditation -- or UN Security -- tell me to leave, I will. But not before. Video here.

  Meanwhile the representative of the old UN Correspondents Alliance meekly left; previously, UNCA did nothing when previous French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud in this room told a Lebanese reporter, "You are not a journalist, you are an agent."

  After a time, the woman from Hollande's entourage said that the chief of UN Media Accreditation, whom she made a point of saying she knows well, was not answering the phone. A French security guard told Inner City Press to leave. But this is not their role, in the UN briefing room.

  Finally the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius and the new Permanent Representative to the UN came and sat in the front room with Inner City Press and FUNCA.  Hollande appeared from the doorway Spokesman Dujarric had looked out of.

  Hollande said he had come mostly about climate change, but that a French citizen had been taken hostage in Algeria by a group linked with ISIL or "Da'ech," as he called the group. He said arms deliveries would continue; he noted the previous night's air strikes, by others, on Syria.

  Hollande said he would meet in the afternoon with the Syrian Opposition Coalition's Hadi al Bahra, who he called the only legitimate leader of Syria. Then he left without taking questions.

  The day before, UNCA hosted al Bahra (as they had his predecessor Ahmad Jarba) in the clubhouse the UN gives this group, publicized only to those which pay it dues. Given that UNCA did nothing when Araud told the Lebanese reporter "you are not a journalist, you are an agent," why didn't Hollande hold his press conference in the club of UNCA, the UN's Censorship Alliance?


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