For those who are unfamiliar with the press conference, it is when a spokesperson of the press enters the committee and begins to question delegates on their stance on the topic at hand, basic facts about their nation, etc. It is mostly found in the Indian Model UN circuit, but not all conferences feature them. In my experience in the Indian Model UN circuit, it has come up regularly in the Bangalore Circuit (Click here for more information on the South Indian Circuit).
The press conference is always a factor in deciding the final awards as it recognizes the efforts that delegates put into their research, and is also used to settle ties on awards, if any. The questions are put across in a way to intimidate delegates, and a delegate who is composed and answers questions correctly without any hesitation is usually favored.
Types of Questions
1. Country Facts
Sometimes delegates tend to overlook important facts about their nation while researching that most diplomats should be aware of. Here is a script of a press spokesperson interrogating the delegate of Japan at one of the conferences I staffed.
Press Spokesperson: Delegate of Japan, could you please tell me the size of your army?
Press Spokesperson: Small, Medium or Large?
Japan: Umm… Medium?
Press Spokesperson: No, delegate. Your nation does not have an army. Your constitution does not allow it.
In the case study above, the low level of research that the delegate did is quite evident by how the delegate was unaware of a simple fact that the whole Japanese population was aware of! Not knowing such facts can greatly hurt the chances of winning awards. The difficulty level of the questions is not always at this level (this is quite elementary), and can put delegates in a much more tight position.
2. Policy on the Issue
These are much more common in a press conference compared to questions on country facts. However, these are not always just simple questions on stances and press spokesmen tend to add twists to them. For example, when I represented the Russian Federation in the Security Council discussing Reforms in the Security Council, the press spokesperson questioned me on reforms in codes of conduct given how the Russian representative at a recent Security Council meeting allegedly bribed other delegates with Russian vodka! I felt like I was slapped across the face, and just froze. I approached the spokesperson later and he admitted that it was an unfair question. While I asked him for his source, he told me that he heard a rumor at a conference and that the vodka was said to be a “Christmas present”!
In another conference, the press spokesperson questioned the delegate of Iran, and stated that he had evidence that Iran tested a nuclear bomb! When I asked him later, he told me that a friend of his found a report that said so. If there was indeed incontrovertible evidence that Iran possessed a nuclear bomb, it is clear that the Iran-Israel crisis would have greatly escalated and would have made world news. Seeing that this is not the case, we can conclude that some information brought out by press spokesmen can indeed be inaccurate.
Key points when dealing with the Press Conference:
The press conference is a test for the level of research done by a delegate, and the only way it can be effectively countered is in-depth research. Firstly, make sure you familiarize yourself with your nation and its history. The CIA World Factbook is a good starting point for research. You need to know certain facts about your internal issues and some knowledge of your constitution and national policies (for example, China’s no first-use policy for nuclear weapons). Quoting exact articles from the constitution or military doctrines is not necessary, but knowledge of the same can certainly impress your committee chair.
2. Winging it (a.k.a. BS)
This is not an advisable way to deal with a press conference, and can in fact reduce your chances at winning awards. You need to remember that the press spokesperson is well-researched and will be able to differentiate well-researched responses from improvised ones.
3. Keeping Calm
The press spokesperson can be very intimidating, and you as a delegate need to remain composed and respond to the questions asked without any hesitation.
4. Refusing to Respond
As delegates, you have the sovereign right to decline from answering questions posed to you. You shouldn’t resort to this unless the question you are asked in controversial in nature (for example, Israel’s alleged nuclear program). Refusing to answer simple questions about your nation or its policies is as good as giving a wrong answer, and can go against you when it comes to awards.