SUDAN WATCH: SUNA's investigating Sudan Tribune's accusation of a hoax and fabricated interview with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband re ICC

Monday, November 24, 2008

SUNA's investigating Sudan Tribune's accusation of a hoax and fabricated interview with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband re ICC

The fishy Sudan Tribune story claiming that Sudan's news agency (SUNA) interview with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was fabricated and a hoax [see Sudan Watch November 21, 2008] gets more interesting and gives a good insight into the veracity of Sudan Tribune and quality of its reports. According to the following report published by Sudan Tribune today, SUNA's source says its reporter in Damascus assured them that he has Mr Miliband’s interview recorded on tape:

Sudan news agency investigating alleged interview with British FM
November 23, 2008 (KHARTOUM) - The head of Sudan official news agency (SUNA) announced that an investigation is underway into an interview with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband published last Wednesday.

SUNA’s managing director Awad Jadain told the independent Al-Ahdath daily in Khartoum that a “full blown” inquiry into the interview will be conducted.

Jadain declined to go into any details on whether they have a permanent office in the Syrian capital or if they have a reporter in the region, the newspaper said.

The British embassy in Khartoum had issued a statement saying that the SUNA interview conducted by its reporter Syria is fabricated.

“The statements that SUNA news agency attributed to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband on November 19 are completely inaccurate” the embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Foreign Secretary did not give any interview to SUNA. Nor did he speak about Sudan in the terms described during his recent visit to Damascus” the spokesperson added.

An unidentified source in SUNA told Al-Ahdath that its reporter in Damascus assured them that he has Miliband’s interview recorded on tape.

SUNA’s reporter in Damascus quoted Miliband as saying in an interview that London and Paris are working together to introduce a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

“The UK supports the international efforts undertaken in the UNSC aiming to suspend a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir for another year” Sudan’s state agency quoted Miliband.

“We realize that these international measures will not solve the crisis but will complicate it even further and may be put the future of peace in Sudan on the brink of collapse” he added.

But the British embassy stressed that UK policy regarding on the ICC is “unchanged”.

“The UK continues to urge the Government of Sudan to co-operate with the ICC and to take bold, ambitious and concrete action to bring peace in Darfur” the embassy spokesperson said.

In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. In early October ICC judges have officially started reviewing the case in a process that could possibly drag on to next year.

The African Union, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) called for invoking Article 16 which allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.

But Western members of the UNSC such as US and France made it clear that they would veto such a resolution was introduced at this point in time.

Sudanese officials have expressed increasing optimism that they can secure a suspension before the end of the year.

SUNA published a report this week saying that France and Britain have agreed to boost efforts to push for a deferral following efforts exerted by Syria, the current president of the Arab League, to persuade the two permanent members of the Security Council.

But asked about the news, French diplomatic sources speaking with Sudan Tribune from Paris expressed surprise and reiterated that France had not changed its initial stance on the necessary cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
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NOTE FROM SUDAN WATCH

My guess is that Mr Miliband was interviewed on his visit to Syria, and the quote, taken out of context, was off the record. Sudan Tribune reported the words "fabricated" and "hoax". In actual fact, according to the following excerpt from Sudan Tribune's report, this is what was stated:
"....according to a statement by the British embassy in Khartoum.

“The statements that SUNA news agency attributed to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband on November 19 are completely inaccurate” the embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Foreign Secretary did not give any interview to SUNA. Nor did he speak about Sudan in the terms described during his recent visit to Damascus” the spokesperson added.

SUNA’s reporter in Damascus quoted Miliband as saying in an interview that London and Paris are working together to introduce a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

“The UK supports the international efforts undertaken in the UNSC aiming to suspend a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir for another year” Sudan’s state agency quoted Miliband.

“We realize that these international measures will not solve the crisis but will complicate it even further and may be put the future of peace in Sudan on the brink of collapse” he added.

But the British embassy stressed that UK policy regarding on the ICC is “unchanged”.

“The UK continues to urge the Government of Sudan to co-operate with the ICC and to take bold, ambitious and concrete action to bring peace in Darfur” the embassy spokesperson said.
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MESSAGE TO SUDAN TRIBUNE

Please publish a copy of the statement issued by the British Embassy saying that the SUNA interview was "fabricated". My understanding of your report is that the Embassy used the word "inaccurate" not the word "fabricated".

The British are masters of the English language. Going by Sudan Tribune's reports, the way I see it, the British Embassy in Khartoum confirmed that Mr Miliband did not actually give an interview to SUNA itself regarding Sudan and that what he was quoted as saying isn't a change to the UK's policy regarding the ICC, namely: “the UK continues to urge the Government of Sudan to co-operate with the ICC and to take bold, ambitious and concrete action to bring peace in Darfur”.

See? Diplomatic speak in action. Whatever Mr Miliband might have said, he knew he could claim it as being off the cuff. Probably, the quote was taken out of context and no interview was actually granted to SUNA enabling the British Embassy in Khartoum to deem the so-called interview as "inaccurate" because the UK's policy of supporting the ICC has not changed, ie “the UK continues to urge the Government of Sudan to co-operate with the ICC and to take bold, ambitious and concrete action to bring peace in Darfur”.

On reading the Sudan Tribune's report, the British Embassy in Khartoum did not actually state that the interview was "fabricated" or a "hoax". The Sudan Tribune's reporters took it upon themselves to report the words "fabricated" and "hoax".

Thanks for the entertainment chaps. Be very careful of what you report. I'm watching you!

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