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UN Communications Breakdowns, from Brahimi on Syria to DRC Framework

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 17, updated – What's wrong with the UN's communications? Six hours after Lakhdar Brahimi was quoted about talks in the UN between an “appropriate delegation” of the Syrian government and the opposition, the UN Spokesperson's office told Inner City Press “we are checking with the Joint Special Representative's team whether a transcript will be available.”

  Repeatedly throughout his tenure as JSE, Brahimi has said he was misquoted. But he currently has no spokesperson, and the team of UN spokespeople in New York are either not in touch, or can't transcribe an audio file. And Syria is described by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as among his two top priorities.

  Another priority -- not in Ban's top two or even three, of course -- is the Democratic Republic of Congo. In projecting the signing of a framework agreement in late January, Ban's UN made available an “unnamed official” to several wire services, saying that it would be signed that weekend in Addis Ababa. It was not.

  On Friday, February 15 African diplomats told Inner City Press the deal was on, to be signed February 24. One expected Ban's spokesperson's office to release the news. But they did not.

  Rather, a person working for the Rwanda mission, in his personal capacity, tweeted at 12:36 pm on Saturday afternoon that Ban would be going to the signing.

  Two and a half hours later, quoting the personal tweet and Ban's spokesman, Reuters "reported the news" (along with paragraph after paragraph lifted from a previous, February 6 story).

  Why did Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office “release” the information about the DRC framework signing in this way? Asked, Ban's Spokesperson's Office told Inner City Press:

On DRC framework: A member of the Rwandan Permanent Mission tweeted about the agreement on Saturday afternoon, reporters asked and we confirmed.

  It's worth noting, along with the new Free UN Coalition for Access, that Ban's spokesperson's office often says it won't comment on news articles or leaks, and even if confirming often waits 24 hours or more answer others' questions, and makes the answer at that time available to all. What's different here?

  Ban's spokesman was also asked a direct question about Ban's chief of staff Susana Malcorra, who previously made representations about how news of the DRC framework would be disseminated. Two words: no confidence. Watch this site.

Update of 4 pm -- and finally this came in:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]>
Date: Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3:50 PM
Subject: Question
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

On JSR: We checked. There was no recording of the Joint Special Representative's most recent remarks in Cairo and therefore there is no transcript.

   This after the many times Brahimi said he was misquoted...

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