|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the briefing. I want to welcome a group of Italian students; benvenuti a tutti gli Italiani.
**World Press Freedom Day
The Secretary-General observed World Press Freedom Day, paying a moment of silence this morning in honour of the more than 60 journalists who were killed worldwide last year. He also noted statistics that 179 journalists were detained in 2011, a 20 per cent rise over the year before, and the highest level since the 1990s.
Such attacks are outrageous, the Secretary-General said, calling on all concerned to prevent and prosecute such violence. He said that defenders of a free press are safeguarding our rights and we must, in turn, ensure theirs. We have his remarks in our office.
This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss the Democratic Republic of the Congo and MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The President of the Council, the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan, Agshin Mehdiyev, later read out a press statement on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He said the members of the Council expressed their serious concern over the recent attacks by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular former elements of the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), under the leadership of Bosco Ntaganda, against the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). The Council members called for an immediate end to the rebellion. They also expressed deep concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation in the area, and particularly the increasing number of displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and refugees in neighbouring countries.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo — Sexual Violence
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, has said she is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo following intense fighting between Government forces, dissident groups and militia. She said the situation is again causing immense suffering for civilians who are experiencing displacement, human rights violations, and loss of property.
She added that a new wave of violence is being perpetrated by actors such as the Mai Mai leader Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi and Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
She said she was particularly worried about the volatile security situation in several villages in Walikale territory, North Kivu. These villages were the scenes of horrendous crimes in July and August 2010, when at least 387 men, women and children were the targets of sexual violence acts.
The protection of civilians remains a challenge despite the concerted efforts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Government and the UN to secure vulnerable populations. Ms. Wallström has called on all parties to immediately refrain from any acts of violence and has urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo Government to restore State authority and ensure the protection of civilians, including from sexual violence.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says global food prices dropped three points or 1.4 per cent from March to April 2012, but seem to have stabilized at a relatively high level of 214 points.
According to FAO’s Food Price Index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, the fall was the first after three consecutive months of increases, and although the index is significantly down from its record level of 235 points in April 2011, it is still well above the figures of under 200 which preceded the 2008 food crisis.
The index was published in the latest FAO Food Outlook, a global market analysis which comes out twice a year. It noted that the prospects for the second half of this year and into the next indicate generally improved supplies and continuing strong demand. More details are available online.
I was asked about a forthcoming strike by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) staff in Jordan yesterday. UNRWA regrets the announcement of an open strike. The Agency remains committed to discussing terms and conditions of service with the staff unions. UNRWA has put forward an offer for discussion and reiterates its invitation to the union to work with management to find a solution. We urge the unions to refrain from further industrial action that negatively affects the refugees.
Following this briefing, today at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan and President of the Security Council for the month of May, will be here to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.
Tomorrow, as the current round of negotiations for the “Rio+20” outcome document wraps up, we will have two press briefings. At 11 a.m., in this auditorium, there will be a press conference, sponsored by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, entitled “Civil Society reacts to the state of Rio+20 negotiations”.
And then at 2:30 p.m., Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang and the co-chairs of the Preparatory process, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, Ambassadors John Ashe and Kim Sook, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, will brief on the preparations for the Conference.
That’s it from me. Questions, please. Mr. Abbadi?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. As you indicated, this is Press Freedom Day, and the Secretary-General has made this statement you just read, some of it. Do you think the killing of journalists and the suppression of freedom of expression can impact some aspect of international security in the sense that it deprives the people from the right to know and it might lead to violence?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, absolutely. You will see that journalists are our main source of information all over the world. In many places where we may not have an office or we may not have a mission, we depend on reports from journalists, objective reports to inform us as to what is going on the ground. But more important than us, it is the people; people have the right to be informed accurately, objectively about what is going on in their city, their village, their country, their region and the globe. And that is a basic democratic fundamental right, and the Secretary-General spoke to that this morning in his speech.
Question: And if that is so, would the Secretary-General be willing to place the subject of the killing of journalists before the Security Council in the framework of Article 99, the so-called good offices?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to see what the Secretary-General plans to do on that. I can’t foretell right now what he may plan to do on that. But obviously his call this morning was a call on all Member States to guarantee the life, the freedom and safety of all journalists who are practicing the profession and who are informing people of what is going on in the world. That is a basic democratic right and it is something that has to be underscored at all times. Matthew?
Question: Sure, one, following yesterday’s Security Council resolution on the two Sudans, South Sudan is saying that… that they have been bombarded by air at Lalop and another place [inaudible], and I wanted to know, since there is the United Nations Mission in South Sudan [UNMISS] in the country, is… how… are they aware of these reports, are they seeking to verify them, and have they been able to either prove or disprove them?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we will check on it; this is the first I hear of it; I have go nothing here on that bombing, reported bombing yesterday afternoon.
Question: And is… is UNMISS cha… is it… I mean, now that there is a threat of sanctions on these activities of the aerial bomb, on… on both sides, but let’s say in South Sudan, since you have a mission there, does it in any way change UN… the way UNMISS goes about its business, many times they can’t confirm or they get to places late and now there is obviously a much higher stakes on these things.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the mandate comes from the Security Council. And if there is a change in mandate, the Security Council will let us know.
Question: Right, but I mean, I am sorry, just one more on this, was that… Hilde Johnson had said they have a… they have a mandate but they are not able to per… they are not able to perform all of it due to a lack of resources. So obviously they make choices where they put their resources within that mandate. Part of the mandate…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well…
Question: …would be to say this town got bombed, right?
Deputy Spokesperson: Limited resources are something we all face in the Organization and Governments around the world. So we have to make judgement calls, and I am sure she is making the right judgement call as to where her people are placed to help the South Sudanese Government and the people of South Sudan, yes. Okay. Thank you very much ladies and…
Question: I have a Myanmar question.
Deputy Spokesperson: Sorry?
Question: I have a Myanmar question.
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes?
Question: Now that the Secretary-General is back, the Kachin independence organization is saying that the Government has massed 3,000 troops in Laiza, in this area, and I know that he… he… he’d certainly said the Secretary-General, that, that this shouldn’t take place, apparently it is taking place. What follow… what follow-up is there by whether it is Mr. Nambiar or… or the Secretary-General on this report of mil… further militarization of this ethnic area that he mentioned?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General met with a wide variety of people in Myanmar, he was with Mr. Nambiar and they came back here, they were quite satisfied with their trip. We are following the situation in Myanmar closely, and if we have anything to add, we will.
Question: Is he going to give some kind of a briefing about his trip, the Secretary-General, I mean?
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ve got no plans for a Secretary-General’s briefing or press conference yet. We’ll have to wait for a few days to see if we can come up with a date. Okay, thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record