DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

29 March 2007

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

29 March 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  We will be having with us, very shortly, Thomas Schindlmayr, the United Nations Disabilities Expert, who will brief you on the opening for signature of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  And that will take place after I’m done with my part of the noon briefing.

More than 50 countries have indicated that they will sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at a solemn ceremony that will be held in the General Assembly Hall tomorrow, Friday.  And we have a press release upstairs with some more information.

**Secretary-General Statement on Somalia

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the intensification of fighting in Mogadishu:

The Secretary General is deeply disturbed by the intensification of fighting in Mogadishu today, which has resulted in the tragic loss of civilian lives.  He is particularly concerned with the use of air strikes and the introduction of tanks and heavy artillery into densely populated parts of the city, further increasing the threat to the security of a large number of civilians.  This is a dangerous and troubling new development that can unravel the peace process.  He urges all the parties to put an immediate end to the fighting and to honour the cessation of hostilities agreed to last week.

The Secretary-General emphasizes once again that sustainable peace in Somalia can only be attained through an inclusive dialogue leading to a political solution and national reconciliation.

We have copies of that statement upstairs.

** Somalia

Still on Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, says the situation is becoming very dangerous and the dilemma now facing Somalia is whether to secure Mogadishu before the planned reconciliation congress by forcing disarmament or to broker a political settlement to the crisis before any disarmament can take place.  Even so, Fall remains confident that the Somali parties are open to genuine dialogue.   

And the United Nations refugee agency, meanwhile, estimates that 57,000 people have fled the outburst of deadly violence in the Somali capital in the past two months, and that figure includes some 12,000 Mogadishu residents who escaped last week.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that some among the dead of the latest violence are internally displaced people whose settlements were hit by rounds of mortar.  More on that upstairs.

** Sudan

Yesterday evening in Riyadh, the Secretary-General, President Omer al-Bashir of Sudan, African Union Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa, met to discuss the situation in Darfur, in a meeting chaired by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement issued afterwards, which we have upstairs, the participants recognized the need for the United Nations, the African Union and the League of Arab States to work together to seek an early and comprehensive settlement to the conflict and humanitarian suffering in Darfur.  Based on this recognition, they agreed to redouble efforts to bring all parties concerned, including non-signatories and the Government of Sudan, to the peace process to accelerate political reconciliation.

In parallel with the political process, they also agreed on the shared need to move expeditiously ahead with the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation.  Reaffirming the commitment of the Government of Sudan to the Abuja and Addis Ababa agreements, they agreed to hold a technical consultative briefing at the earliest possible date, to finalize the agreement on the heavy support package.  The Secretary-General told reporters after the meeting, “I think we made progress, where there had been an impasse.”

**Secretary-General’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, on the last day of his visit to Riyadh, the Secretary-General hosted a breakfast meeting with Manouchehr Mottaki, the Foreign Minister of Iran. In the meeting, the two discussed Iran’s nuclear programme and the detention of 15 British marines and sailors in Iran.  The Secretary-General urged Iran's compliance, in full, with Security Council resolution 1747 and earlier Council resolutions.  On the issue of the British marines and sailors, the Secretary-General expressed his wish to see an early resolution of this problem.

The Secretary-General also held separate bilateral meetings with the Presidents of Algeria, Yemen and Iraq and with the Emir of Kuwait.  Then, in the afternoon, he attended the closing session of the Arab Summit before leaving Saudi Arabia for Lebanon, where he is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other senior officials.

**Security Council -- Today’s Meetings

The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on Guinea-Bissau.  Shola Omoregie, the head of the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in that country, briefed Council members on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Guinea-Bissau, in which he says that the persistent and bitter divisions among key national stakeholders threaten to compromise the independence and authority of the judiciary and the legislature.

After that, the Security Council is to hear, under other matters, a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe by an official from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rashid Khalikov.  I was told that Mr. Khalikov was willing to talk to reporters at the Council stakeout once his briefing is done.  That could happen any time about now.  So he might be coming over to the stakeout over the course of this coming hour.

**Security Council -- Yesterday’s Meetings

The Security Council concluded its open meeting yesterday on cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and peacekeeping, by adopting a presidential statement.  The statement asked the Secretary-General for a report with specific proposals on how the world body could foster collaboration and deeper partnerships with other intergovernmental organizations and regional and subregional actors, especially the African Union.

The Security Council, in another presidential statement yesterday afternoon, welcomed and endorsed the agreement signed by President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire and Guillaume Soro, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 4 March, and supported the appointment of Guillaume Soro as Prime Minister.  The Council also unanimously approved a resolution amending the sanctions placed on Rwanda.

**Emergency Relief Coordinator’s Visit to Chad

As he wrapped up his visit to Chad today, Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in the eastern part of the country.  Meeting with Chad’s Prime Minister, he stressed the need for the Government to increase its protection of internally displaced persons and to deal with nearly 300,000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic.

He underscored the need for the Government to work with the United Nations to increase security in the refugee camps and their surroundings, noting the impunity prevailing for perpetrators of carjackings and other crimes.  Even though humanitarian actors have not been directly targeted, this underscores the dangerous environment in which they work, he said.  And we have more in a press release upstairs.

**Southern Sudan

Also from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, organized return operations of internally displaced persons are continuing in Southern Sudan, with nearly 1,200 additional people returning from South Darfur, Khartoum and other areas. 

On a related front, clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance on one of Southern Sudan’s main routes for trade and delivering humanitarian aid was completed last week.

** Haiti

Turning to Haiti, the United Nations is helping out in relief efforts following recent heavy rains and flooding.  In Ouanaminthe, in the north-east, a “crisis cell” has been set up under the leadership of the Mayor and with the support of the United Nations Mission and other humanitarian partners.  The United Nations Mission is also helping the Haitian Government to assess damage, evacuate populations in high-risk areas and provide drinking water.  The World Food Programme, meanwhile, has sent two trucks of food to provide assistance to approximately 500 people in temporary shelters for two weeks. 

**Human Rights Council

In Geneva, the Human Rights Council today held a debate on reports presented and issues raised throughout the week, during which several delegations expressed concern about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.  A number of speakers called on the Government of Zimbabwe to cease human rights violations, restore the rule of law, and allow Zimbabweans to freely express their opinions.  Zimbabwe was also urged to start a dialogue with opposition figures in the country aimed at forging national unity and reconciliation.

Earlier in the day, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the reports of experts on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; on the right to health; and on the situation of human rights defenders. 

Tomorrow, the Council is scheduled to vote on a number of drafts resolutions before it, which have either been tabled during this session or deferred from previous sessions.  And we have more information available on the Human Rights Council web page.

**Northern Uganda

United Nations agencies led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ugandan Government and civil society organizations have launched a campaign to improve primary-school enrolment in war-affected northern and north-eastern Uganda.  This is part of a countrywide campaign aiming to speed up enrolment and strengthen retention and completion of school by both boys and girls.  “Go to School, Back to School, Stay in School”, as the campaign is known, looks to benefit some 1.3 million children in and out of school as well as 13,000 teachers in 1,600 schools in 18 districts.  UNICEF is taking the lead in providing educational and teacher-training materials for people in the region. 

**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia yesterday dismissed a filing by detainee Vladimir Kovačević in his attempt to stop the transfer of his case to the Republic of Serbia, thus clearing the way for the Tribunal’s first-ever referral of a case to the Serb jurisdiction.  To date, the Tribunal has transferred nine accused to Bosnia and Herzegovina for trial and referred one case involving two accused to Croatia.

**Press Conferences

In addition to the press conference we’ll have today very shortly with Mr. Schindlmayr, at 12:45pm tomorrow there will be a press conference on the opening for signature of the Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities.  Here to brief you at that time will be the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour; the Vice-President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno; New Zealand’s Minister for Disabilities Issues, Ruth Dyson; Mexico’s Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo; and Yannis Vardakastanis, from the International Disability Caucus.

Do we have any questions before we turn to Mr. Schindlmayr?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I want to find out -- on this issue with Britain and Tehran -- about these 15 prisoners.  Iran says that they were in Iranian waters; the Brits claim that they have a video which proves that, no, they were in Iraqi waters.  Now, basically, there’s a standoff.  And when the Secretary-General says that he would like “an early resolution” to this -- who could be an independent arbiter in this matter, to determine where these British soldiers were at that time?

Associate Spokesperson:  Without getting into the issue, for now, of where the sailors had been: as you can see from the meeting with the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General is involved in this issue.  We have heard from the British side, as well as from the Iranians, and we have been in discussions with them.  We’ll see where we go.  But for now, I don’t have any further comment beyond what I’ve already said on this.

Question:  Let me just clarify.  What you’re saying, basically, is that the United Nations is engaged with both sides, but have not resolved the situation.  Have I... Is that right?

Associate Spokesperson:  The United Nations has heard from both sides.  We’re trying to play a helpful role where we can… The Secretary-General did discuss the matter with the Iranian Foreign Minister.

Question:  Does the United Nations have any mapping/cartography teams and so on that, regardless of whether they will decide to do it or not, they have the capacity of deciding where exactly is the border?

Associate Spokesperson:  We certainly do have cartography teams who have helped deal with border issues in the past.  I’m sure you’re aware for example, of the work that our United Nations cartographers are doing right now over the issue of Shebaa Farms in Lebanon.  But let’s not get ahead of the course in terms of whether or not we’ll be requested to do anything similar.

Question:  But those people have the capacity to determine where the maritime borders are?

Associate Spokesperson:  The United Nations has cartographic expertise.  Whether or not it’s going to be used is a question we haven’t gotten to yet.

Question:  Farhan, I have two questions.  To follow-up on Masood and Benny’s question:  what was actually the response from the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mottaki, to the Secretary-General?  Did he have any response?  There have been some news reports that the Iranian Foreign Minister would like to see an earlier resolution.  However, the National Guard, or Iranian Guards, is not in favour of that.  So, do you have that knowledge? 

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll leave it to the Iranian Government to respond, in terms of what their reactions have been.  Clearly, they discussed this issue at some length today.

Question:  But what was his reaction, the Iranian Foreign Minister?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t characterize the Iranian Foreign Minister’s reaction.  I would leave that to the Iranian Government to do.

Question:  You don’t know the reading?  What did he say to the...?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, we have the readout upstairs, which I’ve just read out to you.  I wouldn’t go beyond that at this stage.

Question:  Regarding the visit to Lebanon: is Mr. Ban Ki-moon to visit, to see, Mr. Nabih Berri during his visit there, or just Mr. Siniora?

Associate Spokesperson:  He’s due to see a number of officials, and one of those that had been included on an earlier schedule was, in fact, Mr. Berri.  But we’ll have some more details tomorrow.

Question:  Is President Emile Lahoud on the schedule?

Associate Spokesperson:  He met Mr. Lahoud in Riyadh.  So they actually met each other on the margins of the Arab League Summit.

Question:  Regarding the meeting with Mr. Mottaki today: did they raise the issue of the Arbil diplomats who were kidnapped by the Americans?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have any detail on that in the readout.

Question:  A follow-up on the question about cartographers.  When or what is the procedure in which the United Nations cartographers would be called in to give their expertise?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t want to get ahead of the game at this stage.  The question is...

Question:  In principle, what does it take -- a Security Council request for that to happen?  Or missions?  How does it happen?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’d rather not speculate.  There’s been no request about the cartographers right now.  If the issue arises, we can have some more information, but it hasn’t arisen so far.

Question:  Excuse me, could we at least get a criteria of how it plays out, normally?  Even tomorrow.  That’ll be helpful.

Associate Spokesperson:  I try not to lay out hypothetical scenarios.  If something becomes more real, of course we’ll have the information for you then.  But not on a hypothetical basis.

Question:  Earlier, we spoke to the Russian Ambassador on Kosovo.  He actually… announced two proposals from the Russian Mission on sending the Security Council mission and comprehensive review of [resolution] 1244.  And he mentioned that, somehow, the Security Council was expecting Mr. [Martti] Ahtisaari on 3 February in town.  Do you have a confirmation that he is going to come, and whether the Secretary-General will attend that historical meeting on Kosovo?

Associate Spokesperson:  At this stage, again, this is another one of those matters on which the decisions have to made outside.  It’s up to the Security Council to determine their programme of work for April and, until they’ve done that, I can’t officially confirm a date on 3 April. 

Question:  Can or can’t?

Associate Spokesperson:  I cannot.  Because it’s up to the Members of the Security Council to agree on their programme of work for April.  It’s clear that some members of the Council are indicating the desire to have this meeting take place on the afternoon of the third, so there has been that talk.  But it hasn’t been officially scheduled yet.  Certainly Mr. Ahtisaari is willing to come to New York for whatever date the Security Council agrees on.  If it’s the third, he’ll come on the third.  And, by the way, whenever there is agreement for him to come and speak to the Council, he’s also looking forward to speaking to you, possibly in this room or at the Security Council stakeout.

Question:  And on whether the Secretary-General will attend that meeting?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ll have to see, of course, when the meeting is scheduled.  If it’s scheduled at a time when he’s in New York, then that would become relevant.

Question:  Two quick questions.  One is: I saw that the Deputy Secretary-General is slated to meet with the Permanent Representative of Myanmar later this afternoon.  And I’m wondering what’s on the agenda, and whether, in light of Special Rapporteur [Paulo Sergio] Pinheiro’s call for the release of political prisoners, whether Ms. Migiro will be raising that or other human rights issues?

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t often get readouts of meetings that are held with the Permanent Representatives here, of which there are many.  But I’ll see whether we can get some information once that happens.  He later told the correspondent that it had been a courtesy visit.

Question:  I know there’s been a request for some time to have Ms. Migiro either do a briefing here or maybe they were going to do it at the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Club.  Where does it stand, to actually hear from Ms. Migiro?

Associate Spokesperson:  She’s certainly willing to meet with you in a number of venues.  I don’t know what the arrangements are, whether it’s here or in UNCA for the next one.

Question:  I guess I would like to reiterate that invitation, on behalf of UNCA.  I just think it’s time.

The other question I have is: there were these announcements about what they call the mobility posts.  There’s about a dozen, maybe, that were announced with some fanfare.  Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar said there were 1,200 applications.  What is the status of those?  Some people are saying that some of the posts have been given out.  Is that the case?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’m not aware that any of them have been given out.  Certainly none of them have been announced.  I know that I’ve been looking with interest, to see whether those posts have been filled.  But as far as I know, they’re not.

Question:  Will they be announced when they are filled?

Associate Spokesperson:  I imagine so, yes.  I don’t think all of them will be announced, because many of them are fairly low-level.  I imagine the higher-level ones would be announced, as we normally do with high-level posts.

Question:  I wanted to find out: in case the Secretary-General takes it upon himself to determine as to... to bring the parties together, Iran and the Brits together, to determine as to who is to be faulted for this particular incident.  How does he go about doing it?  At least, is there an independent arbiter?  Does he become, ultimately, the arbiter, to make that decision, if it comes to that?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’d rather not speculate what role he may be requested to play, down the line.  At this stage, we have received information from the United Kingdom Government.  And of course…, he’s also spoken with the Iranian Foreign Minister and taken up this issue.  What we do further, in the interest of making sure that this particular diplomatic effort is successful, I’d rather not get ahead of ourselves until we get to those points.

Question:  My question relates to something that was asked yesterday about whistleblowers, and the attitude of some at the United Nations on things which they disagree with.  And before asking my question, let me just state that this is probably going to be my last question for a while, because some at the Department of Public Information disagree with some of my questions, so my pass isn’t going to be renewed for a while.

Now, the question is:  yesterday, there was quite some discussion about the Office of the Ombudsman.  And I understand that the Secretary-General has actually requested for a significant renewal of the internal justice system at the United Nations.  But yesterday’s decision was to postpone for a year the enhancement of the Ombudsman’s Office.  Which means that my question is: how does the Secretary-General look at the decision that was taken yesterday, and also at the fact that some requests to go before the Ombudsman at the United Nations have been simply neglected?  Is that Office of the Ombudsman at the United Nations an active body?  Is the United Nations interested to make it into an active body?  Is the United Nations going to fund it?  Is the Secretary-General going to back it? 

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, it is an active body.  It’s funded, by the way, out of the regular budget, as with the other functions of the United Nations.  I’ll see whether I can get any response to your questions from the Ombudsman’s Office, and I’ll see what they have to say on that.

Question:  I wanted to follow up on Massoud’s question.  Actually, how would you respond to how deep is the involvement -- diplomatic involvement -- of the Secretary-General in this crisis with Iran?  And is he really going to go beyond this request for the early resolution of the crisis?

Associate Spokesperson:  There’s not much more I can say at this point on any of that.  Obviously, it’s a deep enough involvement that the Secretary-General himself has taken up the issue, as he did this morning.  Beyond that, I would rather not say.  It is an issue that we’ve been looking at with interest in recent days and we have been in touch with the different sides.  Whether we have any larger role to play, we’ll have to see what the parties themselves want out of it.

Question:  What did Mr. Ban Ki-moon discuss with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia regarding the Middle East plan, or Middle East peace?  Is there any particular point here you could shed some light on?

Associate Spokesperson:  Not so much.  They discussed the Summit that was underway and, of course, they discussed the Arab Peace Initiative concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  As you know, the Secretary-General made it very clear yesterday that he thought of this as one of the key pillars of the peace process, and he has encouraged all Arab States -- to recommit themselves to the initiative.  And he’s also encouraged the Israeli Government to look very carefully at that Initiative.  And beyond that, they also discussed the various other issues that were being brought up at the Summit in Riyadh.

Question:  I want to follow up on Mr. Jawetz’s question.  I don’t fully understand the situation.  But can you say from this podium who, within the United Nations system, makes the decision -- for example, on renewing the pass of an accredited journalist here?  And on what basis?

Associate Spokesperson:  That’s a decision that’s made by the Department of Public Information.

Question:  At what level?

Associate Spokesperson:  It’s a process that goes up through the Department.  Ultimately, it’s a decision that’s made by…

Question:  Mr. [Shashi] Tharoor?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know whether he’s looked at this matter or not.  Certainly it’s been reviewed by the senior officials in the Department of Public Information.  The thing is, I would rather not get into discussing the...

Question:  That’s why I’m asking a policy question.  I’m not asking [talkover].

Associate Spokesperson:  I would rather not get into the question of discussing the basis for their decision.  They have certain guidelines in terms of how media accreditation is handled, and they took this decision based on their guidelines.  I believe if Mr. Jawetz wants to deal with the matter any further… this is an issue taken up in other aspects of the Department of Public Information.  It’s not this office, for example.  That’s about it. 

Question:  But my question is, who makes the decision?  For example, the incoming Head of the Department of Public Information, has he had any -- not necessarily in this case -- but at what... Where are these policies?  I was told in this case that there was reference made to, somehow, UNCA was involved in this decision.  Are you aware of that?  Can you confirm that at all?

Associate Spokesperson:  I was told that the United Nations Correspondents Association was briefed about this, yes.

Question:  Briefed about it, but I think it was presented to Mr. Jawetz that this was, somehow, a joint decision.

[Another speaker]  But it was not.

It was not.  And I want to ask as an UNCA Member, to put it on the record that it was not.

Associate Spokesperson:  I was told that this was discussed… between Mr. [Ahmad] Fawzi in the Department of Public Information Office and the Head of UNCA.

Question:  And as UNCA members, we were told that this was not… things were said.  Nothing was said.  And it was said to him that this was a joint decision.  I guess I’m asking for clarity on this matter.

Associate Spokesperson:  I’m not characterizing it as a joint decision.  I’m saying that this was a decision made, that the Department of Public Information made, on the basis of their guidelines.  And it was their decision to make.  I would suggest that you take up the matter with them.  I do not have any… further basis in terms of… discussing what their criteria are.  You can take that up, possibly with Mr. Fawzi’s Office afterwards.

Question:  Was it Mr. Fawzi who made that decision?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, no.  It was a decision made by a number of people in the Department of Public Information.  It’s a process.

Question:  It says here that “the Standing Committee of the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Correspondents Association has concluded”.  I discussed this yesterday with Tuyet [J. Nguyen] and he said he wasn’t part of any decision, that this thing was simply done as a matter of... that he was informed at the meeting that there are proceedings against me.  And this didn’t make him part of the decision-making process.  That’s what he said to me yesterday.

[Another speaker] Can we hear the whole letter?  Can you read it?

Yes.  “I write in response to your request for the renewal of the accreditation of Mr. Pincas Jawetz to the Sustainable Development Media Think Tank.  As expressed in the letter to you, dated 29 November” -- which I can read to you also -- “copy attached, for ease of reference” -- no copy was attached; the letter arrived without a copy -- “Mr. Jawetz does not meet the criteria for original reporting required for media accreditation, which can be found at” -- there’s a website, un.org/media/accreditation.

“Mr. Jawetz’s accreditation was reviewed by the Standing Committee of the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Correspondents Association, and the Committee concluded that there had been no developments that would reverse the earlier evaluation of his accreditation status.  In fact, all of the concerns expressed in the 29 November 2006 letter persist.  Please note that applications for accreditation are considered on a case by case basis, and the decisions of the Department of Public Information are final.”

Okay.  Now let me tell you what was in the letter of 29 November, because that is the letter that is really quite interesting.

Associate Spokesperson:  While you’re reviewing... At some point, of course, we’re going to go to our guest, who has been waiting rather patiently.  I would like to point out that, if there’s any discussion that you want to have with this: yes, as this letter shows, this decision was made by a Standing Committee of the Department of Public Information.  You can take up the matter further with Mr. Fawzi, who, I believe, is the person who met with Tuyet to discuss this matter.

[Another speaker]  Not even with Tuyet.  It doesn’t have anything to do with UNCA.

Question:  I’m trying to get hold of the... It’s here in my papers.  But the thing is that, let us say, it’s simply that my questions are questions of non-governmental organizations.  And the content of my questions, that’s what I’m reviewed on.

Associate Spokesperson:  Because I don’t have a lot of the information on this, and I wasn’t part of this process, I’d really rather not get into this.  But, as far as I’m aware… Yes?

Question:  It’s really quite interesting.  “I write in response to your request for accreditation renewal of Mr. Pincas Jawetz” -- and this is the letter of 29 November -- “Please be advised that Mr. Jawetz will be given a three-month temporary accreditation with any further renewal subject to approval” -- by the way, I got a four-month, not a three-month -- “by the Standing Committee of the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Correspondents Association.  This Committee includes representation from the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

“A review of Mr. Jawetz’s accreditation status is called for, following written and verbal complaints by journalists and others as to the line of essence of questioning at the daily noon briefings and news conferences.  The essence of these extensive complaints is that his questioning is more consistent with that of a non-governmental organization advocate.  As well, my staff has to remind Mr. Jawetz on a number of occasions that briefings are not debates.  An analysis of the content of the United Nations coverage as posted by Mr. Jawetz on your web site indicates that much of the work is a collection of other reports by media organizations such as AP, Reuters, UPI and Financial Times.  These reports are then replicated in whole or in part, with or without commentary by Mr. Jawetz.  This would not fulfil our requirement that online publications contain a substantial amount of original news content.”

There’s a continuation to that.

Associate Spokesperson:  And that is what I was told.  I did not want to get into this, but that was what I was told was the reason for not…

Question:  The thing is that I am judged here on content.  It is what’s called in English “censorship”.

Associate Spokesperson:  No, you’re not judged on what your content is.  The point is: there has to be some original content.  It’s not a question of whether we agree or disagree with your content.  As you can see from the last paragraph of what you read…

Question:  Sixteen articles from the month of March, they are original content.

Associate Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, I wasn’t part of the judgment process, but the people who are involved in that process apparently took the decision that there hadn’t, there wasn’t, any original journalistic content to warrant the renewal of your pass.  You have to, in other words, over the period of the year that you have the pass, produce actual journalistic content.

Question:  I asked for a review by the Ombudsman, for which I submitted a request through Michèle [Montas] six weeks ago.

Associate Spokesperson:  First of all, on the question of the Ombudsman: the Ombudsman deals with questions arising, complaints arising, from United Nations staff.  You’re not a member of United Nations staff.  That’s not a relevant issue where you’re concerned.

Question:  So correspondents are simply dogs in this building?  They are not regarded as people who have any human rights?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.  It’s just that the Ombudsman is a matter of staff relations.  It’s not applying to someone who’s not staff.  You’re not staff.

Question:  I think that this question is probably a non-governmental organization type of discussion that is trying to put the United Nations in the right perspective of doing what the United Nations is supposed to do. 

[Another speaker]  I guess I’d just ask for clarification.  The letter does say that UNCA was involved.  And I’d say, to our knowledge, that [talkover]…

Associate Spokesperson:  And I was also told that UNCA was involved.  If there’s any dispute on that, like I said, take it up with Mr. Fawzi, who did, in fact, convey that information to me.

Question:  Since this is his last day, it just seems to me that there’s an unresolved question here that should be...  I guess your office is also somewhat involved in it.  Are you comfortable with the process?  Or should something be stated on it?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’m comfortable with the idea that there’s a process by which media accreditation reviews the criteria by which reporters have press passes.

I was a reporter here, before joining the Spokesman’s Office, for seven years.  And I went through that same process.  And I went and showed people my journalistic content and got my pass renewed every year.  I was comfortable with that then; I’m comfortable with that now.

And with that, I would like to introduce to the podium Thomas Schindlmayr, who is here to talk to us about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will be signed at a solemn ceremony tomorrow.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.