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Russia wants UN reporters ousted over leaks: diplomats

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin speaks to the media. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS: Russia's UN envoy demanded Wednesday the expulsion from the UN press corps of journalists who reported leaked accounts of a closed UN Security Council meeting on Syria, diplomats said.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied asking for journalists to be kicked out of the United Nations but acknowledged that he asked for a clampdown on the reporting by AFP and other news media of the council's closed hearings.

A briefing by UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was behind closed doors but accounts were provided by diplomats. Churkin was infuriated because reports of talks on the war got back inside the council chamber while Brahimi was still discussing Syria.

The former Russian foreign ministry spokesman at first demanded that journalists be stripped of their accreditation, then for action against diplomats who provided the information, envoys at the meeting said.

"He was quite angry," said one participant at the meeting. "It was all a bit messy," commented another. All spoke on condition of anonymity because of the controversy and the talks were meant to be private.

Asked whether he wanted journalists expelled, Churkin told reporters "I did not make that specific request, but we did have a rather emotional discussion today."

He said Wednesday was not the first time that information had been leaked from closed meetings of the UN's paramount security body to reporters.

"We believe that this is wrong and we asked the secretariat to look into the matter," he added.

"We believe that this is a gross violation of professional ethics so we will be fighting that -- if need be by stripping those who are resorting to this of UN accreditation.

"We do not want to have another Murdoch soap opera in the United Nations," the Russian envoy said, referring to the storm of controversy in Britain over telephone-tapping by journalists from newspapers belonging to media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

He demanded that journalists respect the "confidentiality" of the council's closed meetings, and called for "consequences" if they try to get leaked information from such gatherings.

Churkin called for "similarly strict principles" at the 15-nation Security Council, where there are often no-holds-barred disputes between envoys in the closed meetings.

"I respect freedom of the media and I think we need to be open," the envoy added.

"But the payoff for that is inevitably that the media needs to respect the confidentiality of the work of the Security Council. If the payoff is not there, then our relationship is going to be less effective than what otherwise might be the case."

 

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