Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oficiales castristas violan el protocolo de la ONU

Tomado de UN Truth
By Marian Houk
November 14, 2007

Diplomats, NGOs, the general public, and even UN officials are not admitted to UN press conferences. This is a long-standing rule, and the UN’s Department of Public Information always stations accreditation officers at the entrance of UN press conferences or UN briefings to make sure that only properly accredited journalists enter.

This is to ensure that a press conference remains a press conference, and not just a polite committee meeting, or a rally. It is also, most importantly, to ensure the absence of pressure and intimidation on journalists, who should be free to ask whatever question they want without fear of reprisal. It was very important to maintain this rule during the bad years of the Cold War, but it clearly still remains important today.

The latest inexplicable violation of this long-standing rule happened just very recently at a press conference at the UN Office in Geneva by the UN Human Rights Committee’s controversial and headline-getting Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Swiss academic Jean Ziegler. Cuban diplomats were present, in violation of the basic rule, and then asked about the identity of a journalist who apparently asked provocative questions — an important violation of the fundamental principle at stake.

While the matter is a very serious one for the freedom of the press, it would not have been paid too much attention were it not for the fact that anything to do with Jean Ziegler’ comes under close scrutiny.

Jean Ziegler has been controversial in Switzerland for being a Socialist — Switzerland is a country which was at the forefront of the anti-communist defense during the Cold War, and still has powerful right wing political parties.

He has also provoked strong reaction among supporters of Israel following his reports on problems of hunger and malnutrition in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ziegler, who is Jewish, told journalists at the time that he believed the reaction was due to the fact that he is a supporter of the Alternate Information Center in Jerusalem, run by Israelis who are critical of their government’s policies towards Palestinians.

It was UN Watch which brought this latest matter to the attention of the wider press and public, with an email distributed to its mailing list last night.

Today, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS felt obliged to cover the matter from its office at the UN in Geneva, as follows: “The United Nations has expressed regret that undercover Cuban officials attended a UN news conference on human rights, where they sought information on a French journalist asking critical questions about Fidel Castro’s regime. Elena Ponomareva, spokeswoman for the global body’s European headquarters, said she was unable to prevent two Cuban diplomats from entering the Oct. 11 news event with Jean Ziegler, a UN rights expert who was preparing for a mission to the communist-run island. The UN strictly prohibits government officials from attending news conferences unless they are explicitly invited and included among those presenting. Previous run-ins have occurred with Sudanese diplomats seeking to monitor rights officials speaking about Darfur. The Cuban officials were present for a testy exchange between the French journalist and Ziegler, who said Havana should be praised for cooperating with the global body and agreeing to allow him to report on the country’s respect for the ‘right to food’ — Ziegler’s area of expertise. Havana refused for years to allow U.N. envoys to visit and investigate alleged rights abuses in the country, claiming that such missions would violate Cuban sovereignty. The Cuban officials asked journalists in the room [n.b. apparently, during the press conference, though this is not entirely clear] to identify the name and agency of the journalist who debated Ziegler. When the news conference ended and Ponomareva confronted the officials, they said they were diplomats at a UN mission, but declined to say which country they represented. ‘I can only regret this incident’, she wrote in a letter to the UN correspondents’ association in Geneva. She said she would share her thoughts with Ziegler ‘concerning the presence of members of the mission of Cuba at the press conference’. Cuba has not received any information or a complaint from the UN, said Marcos Gabriel at the Cuban mission. Ziegler — who hailed Cuba during his 11-day mission as a world model for how it provides its people with food — could not be reached for comment. The Swiss sociology professor was appointed as an unpaid, independent expert by the U.N. Human Rights Council, but his views do not necessarily represent those of the global body”.
The AP report on Cuban diplomats behaving badly at a UN press conference is here.

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