Thursday, October 30, 2014

As IMF Answers Press on Ebola's Costs, For-Pay Reuters Cashes In, Censors, Streams


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- This morning the International Monetary Fund said in response to a Press questions that the outlook is worsening in the three most Ebola impacted countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 
  The $130 million the IMF previously announced will not be enough. Clearly it is not only a humanitarian but also a business story.
So where is the big business media, for example Reuters, on this?
  When US Ambassador Samantha Power went to West Africa, she took Reuters along to document each stage. (Here is some alternative coverage, herehere and here.) Upon her return, on October 31 Power will speak at Reuters in Times Square. That event will web-cast, but throughout the week Reuters has been selling its clients first access to quotes from business leaders.
  But there is another side to Reuters. Even when it celebrated itself for getting a leaked copy of the most recent Somalia Eritrea sanctions report, it neglected to report in any way that one of the report's authors was forced to resign after writing a “regime change” plea on UN letterhead. (Inner City Press coverage herethen here and ehere.)
   Reuters reminded silent on this development, clearly relevant to the sanctions story and report, even as it was discussed on camera by the UN spokesman and UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
  Relevant to this silence by Reuters, and making it more problematic, is that the sanctions monitor who was forced to resign, Dinesh Mahtani, used to be in the employ of Reuters. This is how it works.
  While trumpeting its (compensated) “exclusive” publication of leaked documents, Reuters has petitioned Google to block from its Search an anti-Press complaint it filed with the UN, calling it a personal communication and even copyrighted, under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Its filing, under oath, to Google is here. Both forms of censorship are opposed, at the UN, by the new Free UN Coalition for Access.
  The attempt to get leaked documents blocked from Google's Search as "copyrighted" is a strange logic for a company that itself publishes unauthorized leaks. But who ever said Reuters is consistent?
Here's the notice for Power's presentation:
Please join us for a Reuters Newsmaker
Join Sir Harold Evans, Reuters Editor-at-Large, to hear a firsthand report from the front-lines of the Ebola crisis, and its impact on Africa and across the globe.
Speakers:
Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet
Vandi Chidi Minah, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations.
Sheri Fink, M.D., Ph.D. Author of “Five Days at Memorial”
Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Medicine, Columbia University
Sharon Begley, Senior Health & Science Correspondent, Reuters
MODERATOR Sir Harold Evans, Reuters Editor-at-Large, author of “The American Century”
Reuters does Ebola - and then sells it? Watch this site.

 
  

On Ebola, IMF Tells ICP Outlook Worsening in Liberia, Guinea & Sierra Leone


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- Amid the Ebola crisis and after the International Monetary Fund's $130 million commitment to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice for an update at the IMF's embargoed briefing on October 30.

  Rice said the outlook has worsened, with region-wide fall offs in travel and tourism. As to the three countries most impacted, there are "large financing needs likely for 2015."

  At the Annual Meetings earlier this month, the IMF met with the three countries' authorities, Rice said. "2015 is going to be a challenging year." If the outbreak spreads, it would have larger spillovers. The IMF, Rice said, is ready. We'll see.

  Also during the October 30 embargoed briefing, Rice said that the IMF's Article IV visit to Egypt will be November 11, under Chris Jarvis.

 Rice was asked about including "illicit activities" - drug trafficking and prostitution -- in Gross Domestic Product data but did not answer; Feature News asked about Ghana (on which Inner City Press had submitted this question: "On Ghana, does the IMF have any comment on the October 28 launch of the “Civil Society Organization Platform on the IMF Bailout to Ghana”? Will the IMF meet with the group?")
 On Ebola back on August 28 Rice told Inner City Press that the IMF was working on the ebola crisis with the government of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  Later came the $130 million commitment.

  While most questions on August 28 concerned IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde being under investigation -- she will brief the IMF Board “very soon,” Rice said, calling it “highly unlikely” it would be on August 29 along with the Board's meeting on Ukraine -- Inner City Press also asked about Yemen, Ghana, Pakistan -- and ebola, IMF transcript here:

Has the IMF produced any estimates of the impact of the ebola crisis? Any IMF responses to it?”

  Rice read out the question, then said that ebola's "acute impacts" are “macro-economic” and social, hitting three “already fragile” countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). He said "growth is likely to slow sharply in all three cases" and significant financial needs will rise: "increased poverty and food insecurity" and impacts on employment in the key agricultural sector.

  Rice concluded, "We are actively working with all three countries to prepare... additional financing that may be required."

Watch this site.
 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

At UN, UK Ambassador Lyall Grant's Successor Will Be Rycroft, But Not For Five Months, Of Palestine's Mansour & France's Delattre


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- As the East Jerusalem meeting of the UN Security Council started up on Thursday afternoon, a noteworthy small moment occurred at the Council's press stakeout. Palestine's Riyad Mansour was telling a half-dozen reporters that Security Council members should shoulder their responsibility -- and just then, UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant walked by.

  "Hello, Mark,” Mansour said, and Lyall Grant, a flower on his label, laughed and continued on. Recently the House of Commons voted, with many abstentions, to recognize the state of Palestine. Other Council sources told Inner City Press it may have “softened” the UK's or Lyall Grant's approach to the issue. Perhaps these questions are answered elsewhere.

  Others have asked, what about Lyall Grant moving on from the Council? The answer is yes, but not until April 15, 2015. His replacement is Matthew Rycroft, most recently the “chief operating officer” of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (Rycroft's replacement Deborah Bronnert, already interviewed as such, has said all British diplomats should be on Twitter, with Lyall Grant had no problem with.)

  And so to Lyall Grant, even with five and a half months to go, this insider-football joke: what team is made up of two things ISIS or Da'esh hates? West Ham.
  Meanwhile, while France's Gerard Araud was replaced by Francois Delattre and Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access taken a break from writing about press freedom issues that arose with the French mission, from French-only sessions in the UN Press Briefing Room to Araud calling a Lebanese correspondent not a journalist but “an agent,” still little has been heard from Delattre (for now we keep an open mind).
  Some say it's because he came to the UN not during the summer but right in September. Will Rycroft start shadowing Lyall Grant and Peter Wilson between now and April 15?
  Rycroft it is clear has recently toured the DR Congo. What are his views on the UN not suspending any support to the Congolese Army after their 130 rapes in Minova for which only two soldiers were convicted? By April 2015, will the FDLR militia have actually been neutralized, as the M23 was by the UN and its Force Intervention Brigade? 
 What about the UN Secretariat, on Darfur, only giving Security Council members the executive summary of its (whitewash) report into covering-up attacks on civilians, and not the whole report? That'll be for Lyall Grant to address -- and some others on the Council. Watch this site.

 
  

UN Won't Release Its Report Into Darfur Cover-Up Charges, Even to UNSC


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 29, more here -- Today the UN issued a statement on its internal investigation into charges it covered-up attacks in Darfur, but despite a request from Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access will not release the report -- even to the Security Council, which gets only the executive summary.

  Inner City Press asked, given that even the sanitized statement says information on attacks was withheld from the media and UN Headquarters - at its request? - who is responsible? What about Mohamed ibn Chambas, recently head of the Darfur mission UNAMID until he got a promotion? Video here.

  Back on September 12, eight days after Inner City Press exclusively reported that the head of the Darfur peacekeeping mission Mohamed ibn Chambas was being given the UN Office in West Africa post in Dakar, and asked about it, the UN confirmed the move.

  Inner City Press has asked on September 5, and did again on September 12, if this move didn't undercut or pre-judge the UN's investigation into charges that the Darfur mission under Chambas under-reported attacks on civilians. 
  On September 12, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric insisted he didn't want to "pre-judge" the inquiry.  But by giving the new post, this has already been done. Now this sanitized statement, with the report still withheld:
A review, initiated by the Secretary-General, was conducted into recent allegations that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers.

The Review Team examined all the material related to 16 incidents, which were the basis of these allegations. It also interviewed former and current staff in UNAMID and at UN Headquarters. The Review Team did not find any evidence to support these allegations. However, it did find a tendency to under-report unless absolutely certain of the facts. In five of the cases examined, the Mission did not provide UN Headquarters with full reports on the circumstances surrounding these incidents, which involved possible wrongdoing by Government or pro-Government forces. The Review Team also found that the Mission took an unduly conservative approach to the media, maintaining silence when it could have developed a press line, even in the absence of all the facts.

The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by these findings. He recognizes that UNAMID faces unique challenges owing to its complex mandate and operating environment. Nevertheless, keeping silent or under-reporting on incidents involving human rights violations and threats or attacks on UN peacekeepers cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

The Secretary-General will take all necessary steps to ensure full and accurate reporting by UNAMID. Every effort will be made to ensure that sensitive information is systematically brought to the attention of UN Headquarters and the Security Council in a timely fashion. UNAMID’s media policy will be re-examined to ensure greater openness and transparency. The Mission will be expected to follow up formally and report on Government investigations into incidents where peacekeepers have been killed or injured.

Ensuring that the UN speaks out consistently against abuses and identifies the perpetrators is a key goal of the Secretary-General’s Human Rights up Front initiative. The Secretary-General will ensure that all missions are provided with clear guidance on the fulfilment of their reporting obligations, particularly with regard to human rights and the protection of civilians. He looks forward to the upcoming review of UN peace operations as an opportunity to comprehensively address this issue, which is a core element of his Human Rights up Front initiative. 
   On August 22, Inner City Press asked:
Inner City Press: in Darfur, it seems that Mr. Mohamed ibn Chambas went to Kalma Camp and met with residents who expressed a variety of complaints, but he was quoted as saying there that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] cannot stop Government forces from entering camps for the displaced, and it has left many people confused whether, what is UNAMID’s role in terms of protection of civilians given these [inaudible] entrances in the camp and people lying on the ground?
Spokesman Dujarric:  I will… we will check with the Mission to verify the quotes and see what actually they have been doing.
  Two weeks, no answer. Now this. 
  UN Peacekeeping and its mission in Darfur continue take a selective and lax approach to protecting civilians.  
   This example concerns the UN's evolving statements on the Al-Salam camp. 
  After whistleblower Aicha Elbasri further exposed UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous as covering up attacks in Darfur, on June 17 several Security Council members joined International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in calling for an investigation.
  On August 7, Inner City Press asked the Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, about the status of the probe.
   Chambas told Inner City Press he had met earlier in the day with the commission, whose members will be on their say to Darfur.
 Inner City Press asked if the report will be public. Chambas only said his staff will cooperate. Apparently it will be up to Ban Ki-moon, or even Herve Ladsous, to decide to release or withhold the report.
 Back in Khartoum on August 11, Chambas said this:
"And on the attack on Alsalam camp, let me state that we have information about this. We have always stated that the responsibility for maintaining law and order in Sudan lays with the Government. This is a sovereign country, it has law enforcement obligations, it has its justice system and the AU, the UN is only here to facilitate and ensure that law and order and justice are maintained and are enforced according to due process of law. So, we want to say that we will continue to engage with the Government of Sudan in accordance with its own protection of civilian mandate and to ensure that the activities on law enforcement agencies are carried out without infringement of the rights of innocent civilians specially vulnerable communities in IDP camps. We hope that on the other hand residents of IDP camps can understand and do understand that possession of weapons, carrying of weapons is not allowed in IDP camps under international humanitarian law.

"It’s also imperative, and it’s a responsibility of the leaders of IDP camps to ensure that no one is using these camps to keep weapons or to hide weapons, because this is against international humanitarian law. These are the issues involved there and we as UNAMID we will continue to work with both sides, with IDP leaders to educate them what is permissible in these camps and what is not, and at the same time working  with Government to enforce legitimately law and order but to do that respecting the civic and human rights of the citizens and also respecting due process of law. Thank you."
  Since this seemed to defer to Sudan's Abu Tira, and even to blame the victims, Inner City Press on August 13 asked:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Darfur, Missouri and Afghanistan.  On Darfur, photos have come out of the Sudanese uniformed Abu Tira forces going through a refugee camp or [internally displaced persons] camp in El Salam and making the residents lie on the ground.  And Mr. Chambas was asked about it and said that this was entirely up to the Sudanese and it just seems sort of strange. I mean, I know there is a Human Rights component to these peacekeeping missions.  Does the UN, does UNAMID [United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] or does anyone in the Secretariat, are they aware of these photographs?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I will check.
  Twenty three hours later, Dujarric sent nothing to Inner City Press. But UNAMID issued a belated statement, which seems to contradict or attempt to rehabilitate Chambas' dismissive August 11 comments:
"Following a security raid conducted on Al Salam IDP camp on 5 August when individuals were arrested for alleged possession of illegal drugs, weapons and ammunition, UNAMID monitored the trials of those arrested during the operation; most of whom have since been released. UNAMID has been engaging relevant state authorities on the conditions of those still being detained.

"Other security raids have been conducted in Otash and Dereig camps and are part of a wider campaign by the South Darfur authorities to address the high level of criminality in the State, especially around Nyala.

"The security raids have generated alarm and anxiety amongst IDPs in Kalma camp, who are anticipating a similar operation at their camp and have expressed their concerns to UNAMID."
 We'll continue on this.
  Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if an independent investigation of Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping will be done, and if not, why not? Video here.
  Haq claimed that UN Peacekeeping is already acting on Elbasri's complaints, and that it had been telling the press about it. Inner City Press asked, where have these updates been provided.

  Haq cited a read-out given in March, largely generic; then he said the requests made on June 17 would be studied.
 Now on July 2, Ban's spokesman Dujarric - in the midst of a controversy about a non-factual response on June 27, not corrected when asked June 30 and July 1, about Ladsous' mission in the DRC flying sanctioned FDLR leaders around, released this:
"The Secretary-General is concerned about the recent serious allegations against the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). These allegations cover a wide range of issues, including inaccurate reporting of the facts on the ground in Darfur, specific instances of failure to protect civilians and accusations of mismanagement of UNAMID.

"UNAMID has undergone several investigations and reviews over the last two years, which have sought to address both strategic issues and specific incidents related to the Mission's performance. The Secretary-General’s Special Report of 25 February 2014 provides an overview of the strategic and managerial challenges faced by the Mission and the work being done at United Nations Headquarters and in UNAMID to address them.

"The Secretary-General remains committed to improving UNAMID's performance and is determined to take all necessary steps to correct any wrongdoing. He has instructed the Secretariat to review the reports of all investigations and inquiries undertaken since mid-2012 to ensure that their recommendations have been implemented and that any relevant issues have been fully addressed. This review, to be completed within one month, will enable the Secretary-General to determine what has already been done and, if recommendations are outstanding, what corrective action needs to be taken."
 On DRC, Dujarric said "you can pick up the phone" - after siting next to Ladsous while he refused to answer Press questions on DRC.
  As recently as May 29, Ladsous refused Press questions,video herecompilation here.
   Back on April 24 when Darfur as such was the topic of the UN Security Council, three major Darfur rebel groups wrote to the Council to investigate "all reports of the Peace Keeping Mission, including reports presented to the UNSC by [Under] Secretary General for Peace Keeping Mr. Ladous and the reliability of the sources he had relied on."
   But unlike his abortive stakeout on the evening of April 23 about South Sudan, video here, Ladsous did not come out to answer any questions. And at the April 24 UN noon briefing, when Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq for a response to the request for an investigation of Ladsous and his reports, there was none: not one modified or corrected report was cited.
  Instead, from the "holy seat" of the UN Correspondents Association a long time scribe followed up to say that it is not all Ladsous' fault, and to cast blame on the government. (This same dynamic was repeated at the June 17 noon briefing.) This reflexively shifting of blame from the UN to the government, whose new Permanent Representative spoke in the Council on April 24, is in this case particularly absurd: how can the government be responsible for the UN's own reports being inaccurate?
  Those requesting this investigation of DPKO and Ladsous are not the government of Omar al Bashir, which whom Ladsous met in July 2013 without any readout, but rebels Abdel Wahid Mohamed Ahmed Nur, Chairperson, Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M-A/Wahid), Gibriel Ibrahim Mohamed, Chairperson of Justice & Equality Movement Sudan (JEM) and Minni Arko Minnawi, Chairperson Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M-MM).
  Pending UN answers, again we ask: how can one write about the corruption of a UN Peacekeeping mission, at length, without naming the person in charge? Why would one airbrush that person, in this case Herve Ladsous the UN Under Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations, out?
   The former spokesperson of the UNAMID mission in Darfur quit, spoke out and finally leaked documents. Radio Dabanga as well as Foreign Policy began publishing them on April 7 (FP did not mention Dabanga, and called itsback to back  Ladsous-less pieces an exclusive investigation). 
  The last piece focused on the US role, all to the good, but not only doesn't mention that the UN's Ladsous met with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir in July, without providing any read-out, but also omits France's hosting of Darfur rebels, for example.
 Back on March 25, 2013, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson about how the UN Peacekeeping in Darfur could have let a group of Internally Displaced People be kidnapped while they were ostensibly protected:
Inner City Press: there is this incident where IDPs were taken hostage or kidnapped by people that were in Government army uniforms, and somehow UNAMID is saying that they opposed it and they denounced the kidnapping, but some people are wondering how armed UN peacekeepers could have IDPs under their care and they could all be kidnapped. Can you clarify how it took place and how it is consistent with protection of civilians?
Spokesperson: Well, I have asked the Mission for more details on that, and I think if you were listening carefully you will have heard me read out precisely what you just said to me.
Inner City Press: But what I am asking about specifically about how it could take place?
Spokesperson: I heard what you said, and I’ve said that I’ll see if I can find out more, which is what I have already asked the Mission and Peacekeeping Operations.
  Now Radio Dabanga has published a memo by UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, from April 10, 2013, still saying he didn't know how it happened. 
  What is Ladsous doing? Then, and apparently now, he refuses Press questions about topics ranging from Sudan -- why did he meet with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir in July 2013? -- to rapes in the DR Congo by UN Peacekeeping's partners in the Congolese Army.
  We'll be following this. Watch this site.

 
  

In Iraq, UN Aid Official Ging Tells Inner City Press UN Doesn't Coordinate with US Air-Drops of Aid, De-Conflicted; On Lebanon, Too


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- When UN humanitarian official John Ging returned from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and held a UN press conference on October 29, Inner City Press asked him about US air-drops of aid in Iraq's Anbar province and reported theft of aid by ISIL there, and of Lebanon banning refugees. 
  Ging replied that the UN tried to "de-conflict" and only deals with military to say where its humanitarian colleagues are, for their safety. But what then IS the UN's aid coordinating role?
 Ging said he was not aware of reports of ISIL stealing nine trucks of aid in Anbar and requiring pledges of allegiance in order to eat. Those quotes are from Anbar provincial council spokesman Khalil al-Alwani.
  On Lebanon, Ging's take was that while the responsibilities of countries under international humanitarian law are known, they apply to ALL member states, who should held the neighboring states more.
  Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked Ging for always doing these Q&A briefings when he returns from UN trips, and said it should be the norm -- but is not, as to UN Peacekeeping and Political Affairs.
  Back on October 7 when UN official Kevin Kennedy called into the UN noon briefing from Erbil, he even then mentioned bringing aid into Iraq's Anbar Province, under control of the Islamic State and not the government.
So Inner City Press asked Kennedy, until recently the head of the UN Department of Safety and Security and now UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, if the UN could confirm human rights groups' reports on the use of barrel bombs in Anbar.
Kennedy replied, “I don't know about the military issues, I'm not in charge of that.” We'll take him at face value. But note that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its reports on Syria does report on barrel bombs. What's the difference?
Inner City Press asked Kennedy about Islamic State's use of water as a weapon, specifically its threat to dams. Kenney said “water is a concern, a dam just south of this region [Erbil] opened and began to flood this morning, We begin working on today.”
On a second round, Inner City Press asked Kennedy since there are aid workers in the field in Iraq if the US and others give the UN notification of their airstrikes. Kennedy replied obliquely that the UN tried to keep aid workers safe by “any means we can.” So is that a yes?
Finally, Inner City Press asked Kennedy about the report by NBC News that the Iraqi Air Force dropped supplies to ISIL. Kennedy said he hadn't seen it. Well, here it is. Watch this site.

 
  

On Referring Gaza to the ICC, New UN Rapporteur Wibisono Tells Inner City Press He Doubts There Are Nine "Yes" Votes on UNSC


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- When the UN's new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, held a UN press conference on October 29, Inner City Press asked him if he is calling for referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court, as his follow Indonesian UN Rapporteur Marsuki Darusman is, with regard to North Korea.
   The question is about the mandate and scope of rapporteurs. Darusman at the end of his October 28 press conference discussed in the briefing room with scribes how a pending General Assembly resolution might be modified in exchange for him getting into North Korea, video here.
    Wibisono replied that the first step would be for the Palestinian parties -- that would be, Hamas and Fatah -- to unite and decide to apply to join the ICC.
   But, Inner City Press pointed out, North Korea is not a member of the ICC. Darusman is calling for the situation to be sent to the UN Security Council for a vote on referring it to the ICC.
   Wibisono's answer to the follow up did not mention the expected veto(es) - which could well be applicable to North Korea, but hasn't dissuaded Darusman or Japan or the European Union -- but instead said he doubted there are nine “Yes” votes in the Security Council to refer the situation in Gaza to the ICC.
   Would that remain the same after January 1, with Venezuela, Malaysia and Angola coming onto the Security Council, along with New Zealand and Spain? Watch this site.
   As the Palestine debate of the UN Security Council went on in the Council chamber on October 21, Inner City Press conferred with a range of Council sources about the pending draft resolution to set a time frame to end Israel's occupation.
Negotiations were held on the draft last week but only at the “expert” level, not of Permanent Representatives of the Council's 15 members. Supporters of the current draft, according to Inner City Press' sources, include China and Russia, Argentina and Chile, Chad and it was assumed Nigeria, although sources say Nigeria in consultations said they didn't yet have instructions.
France was described as more excited by the draft than either the US or the UK, as not have a problem with a time frame to end the Occupation but wanting unstated changes to the draft. France did not put forth amendments, a source told Inner City Press, guessing that France didn't want to “embarrass” the US Administration before the November mid-term elections.
The UK was described as less enthusiastic, but as somehow “softened” by the recent vote in Parliament favoring recognizing Palestine as a state.
Talk turned to the new members of the Security Council coming in on January 1, with Malaysia instead of South Korea seen as a shift in favor of Palestine as a state. (This reporter's Security Council elections coverage is collected here.) Angola and Venezuela are seen as supportive and “even Spain,” as one source put it to Inner City Press. But what about New Zealand? We'll have more on this. Watch this site.