UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent foray to “observe the situation” in earthquake-ravaged Haiti has drawn press outrage.
Earlier today, Ban, with a small group of carefully selected and managed journalists, left Newark Liberty International Airport for a one-day whirlwind tour of Port au Prince, the Haitian capital.
Just which press went with the U.N. chief and how they were accredited has been kept secret, but the exclusive nature of the jaunt elicited an outcry from several outlets and has proved to be only the latest in a series of controversies over how the United Nations manages its relations with the world media.
Ban spokesman Martin Nerisky explained, “We don’t have to tell you anything [on identifying the reporters]. … This is not like naming a soccer team.”
Nesirky also told the U.N. press corps, bluntly, “We are not responsible to you.”
Earlier, a Nesirky staffer admitted that a press list (which he had been compiling since the earthquake) may not go anywhere: “I just do not know what they are going to do with the list.”
The list, it now appears, was no more than a diversion designed to keep news organizations from politicking the U.N. for space on the Haiti trip.
As to the criteria Nesirky used for his press selection, the Ban press secretary admitted it was “personal.”
The original press list, partially obtained by WND, showed the only U.S. presence on the visit to be The New York Times (a Ban favorite) among 10 spots allocated for journalists. The French were given two seats on the U.N. plane.
The exclusion of the Associated Press and Reuters brought howls from the wire services. Late complaints by the wires pressured Nesirky to review his press selections.
Eventually, Nesirky relented and added AP, Reuters, CNN and Voice of America to his select group for future coverage.
Even with the expanded group of journalists, the U.N. still sought fit to snub the three major U.S. broadcast networks, the Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald, Time magazine and The Times (of London) among many others – all for a trip that appears to be no more than a publicity campaign for the secretary-general.
Ban, it is believed, wants to use the Haitian catastrophe to bolster his leadership image. The former South Korean foreign minister is in his third year of a five-year term and may be seeking a second term in 2011. And yet, a recent poll showed that almost 60 percent of Americans do not know who Ban Ki-moon is. Ban’s staff hopes that a carefully orchestrated visit to Haiti will begin to address that problem.
Preceding the U.N. chief, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the region yesterday. Former President Bill Clinton is the U.N.’s special Haitian envoy but conspicuously did not accompany Ban to Haiti.
The latest U.N. credential fiasco comes on top of frustration after numerous media organizations (including WND) experienced accreditation problems with the U.N. during the recent climate summit in Copenhagen. At that time, too, the U.N. refused to release the identities of those who received press access.
The United States Mission to the United Nations, which had been actively involved in opening press access at the U.N. during the tenures of ambassadors John D. Negroponte, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad, has been silent under current Permanent Representative Susan Rice.