Sunday, 27 July 2008

Setting the Record Straight

Letters to the Editor_2008 page 2
The Irawaddy News
Thursday, July 10, 2008

With reference to the erroneous and factually incorrect article entitled “Regime Asks UN to Stop Press Conferences in Bangkok” [The Irrawaddy online; July 9, 2008; URL:] published yesterday in The Irrawaddy, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

1. The UN system and humanitarian partners held a number of joint press briefings for the Bangkok-based media, kindly hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), during the first few weeks of relief efforts in response to Cyclone Nargis. This is normal practice in disaster response, to ensure that the media are kept as up to date as possible with unfolding relief operations. Considering the logistical challenges faced by many international media in accessing the cyclone-affected areas in Myanmar [Burma], these briefings were held in Bangkok on behalf of the UN and humanitarian partners in Myanmar.

2. The last press briefing held at the FCCT was held on Wednesday, June 18: No further joint briefings were planned in Bangkok, since the volume of media queries had declined six weeks after the disaster, the capacity for regular press outreach direct from Yangon [Rangoon] had increased, and media queries regarding the ongoing humanitarian operations could be better responded to by colleagues on the ground in Myanmar.

3. Situation reports and press releases continue to be made available to both Yangon- and Bangkok-based media, as they have since early May. Media queries and requests for interviews or further information have also been referred to the UN Public Information Officers in Yangon, and their contact details provided on request, including also to your correspondent, Violet Cho.

4. We have not received any request from the Myanmar authorities regarding Cyclone Nargis-related press conferences in Bangkok.

5. Ms. Cho has indeed contacted OCHA in both Bangkok and Yangon this week. In response to her telephone query to the Regional Office, regarding continued media outreach in Bangkok on Cyclone Nargis relief operations, she was provided with the information above, and recommended to kindly contact our colleagues in Yangon. None of the OCHA staff contacted “declined to comment” as stated in the article.

I would therefore appreciate it if this response could be published in The Irrawaddy and the erroneous article withdrawn without delay.

Yours sincerely,

Amanda Pitt

Regional Public Information and Advocacy Officer
OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

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