|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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at an event organized by the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
He said that all journalists, across all media, need to be able to do their jobs, adding that when it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits. The Secretary-General noted that journalists face many challenges while carrying out their vital work. In addition to those killed, hundreds of journalists have been detained.
He said that this highlights the relevance of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. This plan aims to promote collaboration among Governments, regional human rights organizations, non-governmental organizations, media organizations and the United Nations. The Secretary-General urged all involved to do their utmost to translate the words of the Plan into actions on the ground that will create a safer environment for the press.
Also to mark the Day, the Secretary-General and Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, have issued a joint message. In that message, they underscore how the freedom of expression — enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — is essential for empowering individuals and building free and democratic societies.
This afternoon, at 3 p.m., a film will be screened in the ECOSOC Chamber. The film being shown is called Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington.
The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution this morning in which it established the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for an initial period of 12 months. The Mission will be set up by 3 June. Among other things, it will provide UN “good offices” functions and support the Federal Government of Somalia and the African Union Mission (AMISOM) as appropriate. It will monitor and report to the Security Council on any abuses or violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including abuses committed against women and children.
After this briefing, at 12:30, Ambassador Kodjo Menan of Togo, which holds the presidency of the Council this month, will speak to you about the programme of work, which was adopted by the Security Council this morning.
Nearly 260,000 people — half of them children under the age of 5 — died in Somalia between October 2010 and April 2012 due to famine and severe food insecurity. The figures are in a new study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which is backed by the US Agency for International Development.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini, said that the magnitude of the mortality figures is unsettling. He said that the report confirms that more should have been done before the famine was declared in July of 2011. He said that the study contributes to our understanding of the crisis and that our aim is to ensure that Somalia never goes through another famine again. Mr. Lazzarini’s full statement and the new study are available online.
The UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has released casualty figures that show that the month of April was the deadliest in Iraq since June 2008. A total of 712 people were killed and another 1,633 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence. The death toll for April includes nearly 600 civilian and more than 100 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate. We have a press release with more details.
Also today, Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, delivered a personal message to the Kurdistan Region President, Masud Barzani, in which he welcomed the resumption of participation by Kurdistan Region ministers in Cabinet sessions. He encouraged dialogue and full participation in Government institutions as the way to overcome the critical phase the country is going through.
Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, was in Uganda today. She held talks in Entebbe with President Yoweri Museveni, Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga, and representatives of civil society organizations. The discussions focused on implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region. Mrs. Robinson departed Uganda for Burundi, for talks today and tomorrow. She will conclude the regional tour in South Africa this weekend. More details are available in my office on that.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today expressed her serious concern over the crackdown on mass demonstrations across Papua in Indonesia since 30 April. Navi Pillay said that these latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force. She urges the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold those accountable for abuses. There is more available on this on the website of the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).
That’s what I have for you. Questions, please? Yes, Tala?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, this group on 3 June that is going to deploy or be set up for Somalia, is it tasked with dealing with food insecurity?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s an integrated mission that is supposed to work with the other parts of the pre-existing country team, which would have already been dealing with that topic. So, the aim is for this to be integrated. Of course, there will still be the separate agencies and funds and programmes, but the idea is for there to be a coming together and a stronger focus in the way that the work is done. Yes?
Question: Evidently, the P5 met with the Secretary-General this morning on Syria. Is there anything you can tell us about that meeting?
Spokesperson: Well, it is correct that the Secretary-General invited the ambassadors of the permanent five members of the Security Council (P5) to an informal meeting this morning, for discussions on Syria. They discussed possible diplomatic moves to end the crisis. He briefed them on the latest developments relating to the chemical weapons investigation mission. And they also discussed the ever-worsening humanitarian situation inside Syria and the neighbouring countries and international efforts to alleviate it. Okay, yes?
Question: Yeah, I… I actually had some other… I just wanted to ask about that… it might… it might seem kind of procedural to you, but I am looking at the… the appointments of the Secretary-General’s page, and I don’t see that meeting and I understand it may have come up quickly, but is there… is this the type of meeting that normally would be listed and I have been trying and understand what gets listed and what doesn’t get listed.
Spokesperson: The first part of your layered question has the answer in it.
Question: Meaning what? That there is… that it came up quickly?
Spokesperson: Correct. Next question?
Question: Okay, okay, great. I wanted to ask you about South Sudan. In the… in the… in the World Press Freedom [Day] event that is taking place now, a journalist from South Sudan, Oliver Modi, talked about the… he talked about the Lakes State threats to… to go after journalists and… and talked about how difficult it is to be a journalist in South Sudan. And since there is that UN mission there, I wanted to ask you, President [Salva] Kiir has recently given a speech — in fact it’s… it’s reported… it’s a very public speech in which he said that he’ll, you know, go after Government officials that accused the Government of corruption, which many take would be actually speaking to journalists about it or blowing the whistle. So, I am wondering, there have been all these kind of… and I understand it is a new country as… as even Mr. Modi said, but what is the UN’s thinking of this state that… that it is very… you know, has a mission in… has helped bring… bring into existence, are statements from a President saying people can’t complain about corruption. Is that helpful? And then, what is, kind of, Ms. [Hilde] Johnson or the Mission’s role with regard to… to what are seen as threats against journalists?
Spokesperson: I’ll check whether the Mission has something specific on the pronouncements that you refer to. But, simply as a general proposition, in line with what we have been talking about already earlier today, journalists, of course, should be able to carry out their work, and should be able to investigate, and that’s not just in the Republic of South Sudan. Other questions, please? Yes, and then I’ll come back to you, yes?
[The Spokesperson later added that UNMISS, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, has said that it is not aware of any direct threat against individual journalists in Lakes State. However, general statements of concern have been made and this was raised with the State authorities.]
Question: Was there a particular event that led to the unannounced meeting this morning with the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: One word: Syria. It is still… it is a major preoccupation for everybody, and as I just said, the humanitarian situation is not getting any better; it’s getting worse. The bloodshed continues, as you know, and so it was in that context that the Secretary-General wanted to have an informal meeting with those five ambassadors. Yes? And then Nizar.
Question: Okay, great. Myanmar and also this internship in the UN, if not of the UN. On Myanmar, the… the… the Government has come up with its own report on the violence in Arakan State and… and Rakhine State and… and I know that Mr. Ojeda [sic]has made some comments on it, critical of it, and I just wondered if Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar, given his role, his good offices role there, does he think that the report, you know, goes… should have addressed the citizenship law, should be addressing accountability or impunity? What… what are his thoughts on that report?
Spokesperson: Well, the United Nations is reviewing the full text of the report at the moment, and also looking at the recommendations. But, I can tell you that the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim, Bertrand Bainvel, welcomes the release of the report, and he acknowledges the emphasis placed on the urgent need to provide assistance to internally displaced people and to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable ahead of the monsoon season. And he urges the Government to take adequate measures to guarantee humanitarian workers unimpeded access to provide assistance to help all affected people, as well as to take action against all forms of incitement. But, just to repeat that the UN is reviewing the full text of the report and its recommendations. Nizar?
Question: I have two questions, one on Syria. These bishops, Orthodox bishops which were kidnapped, is there no news about their whereabouts? It has been over a week since they were kidnapped by the Syrian opposition. Is there any contact between the United Nations and Turkey to try to find out where they are and make those responsible for kidnapping them responsible and brought to justice?
Spokesperson: Well, we have already said that the kidnapping of these two clerics, along with any kidnappings in Syria or elsewhere, are reprehensible and that the people holding them should release them immediately. So, that’s what I have already mentioned to you before. I don’t have anything further at the moment.
Question: But you condemned that in that statement… The Secretary-General has condemned that, and they are called… they are terrorists; but now, given they are… I mean, the… the groups which are kidnapping they are well known by names. Why do…?
Spokesperson: Nizar, Nizar, you can make another statement if you wish; I have said what I have to say on this. I don’t have anything further, okay? You said you had two questions.
Question: Yeah, the… the other question is… they are regarding Saif al-Islam, who is facing trial in Libya today. Will… given the turmoil in Libya and the instability, especially in the capital — the Minister of Justice itself was ambushed by groups, militant groups — how can he face a fair trial there with such circumstances?
Spokesperson: Well, as far as I know, this trial is not taking place in Tripoli, but in Zintan, right? It is not actually in Tripoli. Som obviously, we are monitoring that. The Mission we have there is monitoring it, but I don’t have anything further on it at the moment, Nizar. I think you had another question, Matthew? And then we’ll wrap up.
Question: Okay, definitely. I… and thank… I… I know that yesterday I had asked you about this internship at the UN and I appreciate the answer that… that… that… that the UN is checking with Charity Buzz and that you don’t think that it is a UN internship. I was just looking at the way it was advertised and seems… and there are two things. One, I want to say it is advertised as something that will teach you how the UN really works and get your foot in the door, and it’s not clear if that means with the RFK Center or the UN. But more than…
Question: …but, can I just give you… can I just finish the question?
Spokesperson: Please do, please do.
Question: Okay, no, no, I don’t mean about… I just think it’s… it’s… even if one… even if it’s a… it’s a… it’s a non-UN internship… if… if an NGO accredited here is… is part of an advertising scheme in which… or… or, you know, set-up in which people are bidding $22,000 and it is being offered as sort of a way to get into the UN, is this a problem from either OLA’s [Office for Legal Affairs] point of view or the Secretary-General’s point of view that access seems to be being sold?
Spokesperson: We have said very clearly that no UN internships can be sold. That’s not how we operate. We also said very clearly to you and to others who have asked that we are in touch with this website to try to understand what is going on exactly, because we do not know. We are trying to find out. So, we can’t really comment further until we know the background on this. But, I think it is clear, we said very clearly, that UN internships are not for sale. Simple; end of story.
Question: But is there… is there… and thank… and I… I appreciate that. It… it… it seems like the… the internship is being offered with an NGO that’s accredited here, so there seems like another way to probably find this out, which is to say…?
Spokesperson: Well, as I say, Matthew, thank you for telling the Legal Affairs Office how to do their job. I can assure you they are looking into it. All right. Thanks very much. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record