UN Iraqi comms work set for overhaul after HQ bomb

BAGHDAD - The UN is to overhaul its communications work in Iraq following the truck bomb that killed at least 23 people and destroyed its headquarters.

The bomb, which killed top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and acting deputy spokeswoman Reham Al-Farra, has seen many UN staff leave Iraq, and a spokesman this week told PRWeek that the organisation would rethink its PR work "very dramatically".

Salim Lone, formerly director of communications and spokesman for Vieira de Mello, has returned to New York. He told PRWeek: "We are rethinking our entire programme."

Lone said the UN's PR work has included "weekly and ad hoc" press conferences, press release distribution, often by car, and "helping to develop a free media".

Lone said Veronique Taveau had now assumed control of the UN’s media relations in Baghdad.

Lone, who moved to Iraq in July, said: "Iraqi people have not had a free media and have no notion of it. They believe the worst of all the speculation they hear.

"Even if there are no 'security issues' in the country, it would still be difficult to communicate there."

However, Lone pledged that PR work to "help Iraqi people understand what the challenges are" would continue, as would briefings to communicate "what UN agencies are doing to restore services as soon as possible".

Lone, who retires at the end of this month, said he had no plans to return to Iraq.

The bomb, on August 19, destroyed much of the UN's building in Baghdad.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has denounced the bombing as an inexcusable "act of unprovoked and murderous violence".

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