By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- After Inner City Press was summarily ejected from the UN, which it has covered for ten years, on February 19, the ostensibly deciding official Cristina Gallach told no less than Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta that Inner City Press would still be able to cover the UN.
What she didn't say was that Inner City Press' ability to cover the unfolding UN corruption scandal in which she has played a role would be curtailed under the proposed arrangement - by design. Inner City Press is opposing this.
But the UN Correspondents Association, at least its 15 Executive Committee members, issued a February 22 statement in context fully supporting the throwing of Inner City Press into the street, the seizure of passport, the Banning, all of it. We wonder if these scribes' employers know about this.
Inner City Press will now report that in the meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room that UNCA boss Giampaolo Pioli insisted on getting Ban Ki-moon's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric to throw Inner City Press out of - and then out of the UN - Pioli was asked by UNCA members for the budget, and refused to provide it.
This is the organization Ban Ki-moon has chosen to partner with, and to allow to lobby his USG of DPI Gallach to throw the investigative Press out for?
Pioli cynically insists that while he demanded -- over the requests of his own Board that he find another room on January 29 -- to throw Inner City Press out, that other events in the UNCA clubhouse are "open to all UN correspondents." We'll see.
For now we reiterate the obvious: the UN Press Briefing Room is presumptively open to all press. If Spokesman Dujarric, or DPI's Gallach, wants to lend it to their friends, at least provide a notice so journalists hungry for news don't get excluded and get nothing.
Now there are not only pro-development pieces, like here - there's also false but illustrative pices like this one, from Mococco, raised to Gallach and higher. What now?
After BuzzFeed ran an article about the underlying (pretextual) "incident," UNCA proffered a statement, of which BuzzFeed added two lines. Inner City Press hereby publishes in full the statement of the UNCA Executive Committee, attributable to each member and their media, and a critique as annotations, in bold:
"Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2016
STATEMENT: FOR THE RECORD
On the evening of Friday, 29 January, 2016, U.N. accredited blogger Matthew Lee of Inner City Press disrupted the Annual General Meeting of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).
Mr. Lee concealed himself in an interpreter booth in the room S-237 ahead of the meeting.
FALSE: Inner City Press waved at people from the booth, which it entred both not to be disruptive and because, unlike the UN Press Briefing Room after the UN's $2 billion Capital Master Plan renovation, has electical outlets.
UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli made clear at the start of the meeting that it was a closed meeting for UNCA members only.
NOTE: Pioli has no authority to thrown any journalist out of the UN Press Briefing Room.
There are more than 200 UNCA members and the association represents almost 100 percent of the resident correspondents at United Nations headquarters. Mr. Lee is not a member of UNCA.
Note: Inner City Press quit UNCA finding it and Pioli to be corrupt; the UN allows this UNCA to set rules for other journalists, illegitimately.
Mr. Lee began videotaping the meeting without UNCA’s knowledge.
Note: it was a Periscope live-stream: perhaps this technology is not in "UNCA's knowledge."
Once he was discovered doing so there was justified concern over his presence
Note: Why? Because UNCA took money from indicted Frank Lorenzo and Ng Lap Seng's South South News, and openly discusses selling UN office space?
and UNCA respectfully asked Mr. Lee to leave, but he refused.
Note: did "respectfully" include Pioli and another UNCA insider quoted in BuzzFeed calling Inner City Press mentally ill? Is that "civil" as Ms Gallach says is required? Will Pioli lose his office?
UNCA contacted the U.N. Department of Safety and Security, the Media Accreditation Liaison Unit (MALU) and the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
UNCA suspended the meeting. U.N. Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric, deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq, acting MALU chief Tal Mekel, a U.N. Security officer and journalists implored Mr. Lee to leave.
Note: Inner City Press said clearly, if and when UN DSS says it's a closed meeting, it would leave. Which it did.
After much resistance, Mr. Lee finally agreed. The UNCA meeting had been disrupted for more than 30 minutes. Despite being told it was a closed meeting, Mr. Lee still posted the video on his blog.
Note: this is dinosaur talk: Inner City Press has already live-streamed on Periscope. And the "video" UNCA members from Voice of America and AFP filmed -- wasn't it a closed meeting? -- was give to the authorities. This is UNCA: working for the Man. FUNCA livestreams for the people. Which is journalism in 2016?
UNCA stands for press freedom and vehemently defends rights of journalists at the UN and around the world. UNCA is committed to journalism ethics and expects journalists to act professionally."
B.S. -- UNCA under Pioli has tried again to get Inner City Press thorwn out for its acts of journalism.
The U.N. Correspondents Association Executive Committee"
So, all members are responsible. We'll have more on this.
When on February 19 Inner City Press was being told it had to leave the UN on two hours notice, UN Security told it darkly they had “seen the video” of January 29 in the UN Press Briefing Room.
Inner City Press assumed that meant UN Security video, and asked in an article why a supposedly “closed” meeting would be filmed.
Then when BuzzFeed ran an article about the UN's ouster of Inner City Press, unnamed UNCA scribes showed the reporter video, focusing on Inner City Press sitting in the back row (that was after Dujarric and particularly his deputy Haq tried to made being in the interpreters booth the problem, not being in a non-closed closed meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room).
So these “journalists” -- Margaret Besheer of Voice of America and Carole Landry of AFP among them -- in fact shot video in order to turn it over to the authorities.
Is that journalism?
On February 19 when eight UN Security guards pushed Inner City Press out the gate onto First Avenue, VOA' Margaret Besheer was there waiting, along with Sherwin of SABC. How did they know to be there, then?
So beyond providing video to the authorities, do these journalists “coordinate” with the authorities?
Is this journalism? Are these journalists?
Gallach also has not said that the complainant against Inner City Press, Giampaolo Pioli's UNCA, is also involved in the Frank Lorenzo and Ng Lap Seng scandal, as well as other financial irregularities.
South South News of Ng and Lorenzo, both now under indictment, gave money to UNCA and Ng was given by UNCA a photo op with Ban Ki-moon.
Gallach in her short tenure at the UN already hobhobbed with Lorenzo at his South South Awards, as reported by Inner City Press - but Gallach did not recuse herself from issuing a ruling to throw Inner City Press out of the UN.
Gallach and this conflict of interest was not mentioned, yet, in theFebruary 22 BuzzFeed piece, here - despite being the signer of the ouster order without even having sought or allowed Inner City Press side of the story.
That piece said the UNCA, rather than explain why it sought to get the Press thrown out, would be putting out a statement later. Well here it is: "UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli made clear at the start of the meeting that it was a closed meeting for UNCA members only."
This is a laughable. It is not for Giampaolo Pioli, more of a landlord than a journalist, to declare any event in the UN Press Briefing Room to be "closed."
As Inner City Press said on January 29, and before that when with Dujarric also involved Francois Hollande tried to close the UN Press Briefing Room to all but the French traveling press, the UN Press Briefing Room is presumptively open to all journalists. On January 29, there was no notice in the UN Journal of a closed meeting, nor any sign on the door.
So essentially, Cristina Gallach is ousting Inner City Press because it didn't obey an order by Giampaolo Pioli.
But the two are united: Pioli's UNCA took Lorenzo's and Ng's South South News' money; Gallach was with Lorenzo at the South South Awards.
When Pioli told Inner City Press to get out of the UN Press Briefing Room, and Inner City Press on principle and to follow the UNCA - Lorenzo story refused, Gallach plotted three weeks then threw Inner City Press out of the UN.
It is too dangerous, apparently, to have a bloggest "spewing" - the words of UNCA's Masood Haider - when the scope and implications of the Ng Lorenzo scandal are still not known. These go to the very top of the UN - thus, no one up there has held Gallach to account for an "investigation" that omitted the defendant, and for not recusing herself.
This must all be investigated, and will be. Inner City Press should not have to accept dramatically reduced access, especially at this time. And those who tried this gambit must face new scrutiny.
When Inner City Press came to the UN on the morning of Monday February 22, with another journalist there to sign Inner City Press in as a guest, UN Security said, “You are Banned from the UN.” Audio here.
Inner City Press left the UN pass office, and set up shop in the Isaiah plowshares park across from the UN. Several Permanent Representatives, at least two Under Secretaries General (the same rank as Gallach) and many staff came to express outrage at the UN's censorship.
But in the UN Press Briefing Room, which was "lent" to the UN Correspondents (or Corruption) Association back on January 29, the reaction was different.
In an embarrassing colloquy, long time UNCA board member Masood Haider asked Spokesman Dujarric about "the blogger Matthew Lee" who has been "spewing on the Internet reports whether false or not."Vine here; Video here; UN transcript here.
On February 19 Inner City Press asked to get its passport and most important files but was pushed out onto First Avenue by UN Security Deputy Chief Michael McNulty without either. That's not seized? That's OK?
And the extortionate offer - no access unless with much reduced rights - is entirely disproportionate to the non-existent "crimes," which was to seek to cover an event in this same UN Press Briefing Room, by UNCA which took money from indicted Ng Lap Seng's and Frank Lorenzo's South South News then gave Ng Lap Seng a photo op with Ban Ki-moon.
UNCA President Giampaolo was there, leaving first from the February 22 Press-less press conference; another UNCA board member slapped Dujarric on the back. Great job!
Bloggers are, of course, hacked to death in Bangladesh, a country on whose free press record USG Gallach never even replied to a detailed email from the Free UN Coalition for Access, for protection for a Bangladeshi journalist then in the UN. Spewing indeed.
Dujarric took the opportunity to deny that the UN had seized Inner City Press' files -- the reality is, when Inner City Press asked on February 19 to take the most important of them, and its passport, it was denied by UN Security. On February 22, UN Security said Inner City Press is Banned from all UN premises.
Dujarric said, as if it's ok, that Inner City Press is being "offered" much reduced access, for four months. But Inner City Press did nothing wrong, and the "investigation" by Gallach which led to its ouster did not involve a single conversation with or reaching out to Inner City Press.
Any reduced access to loss of office space -- which Masood Haider, who hardly writes articles, has, and UNCA President Giampaolo Pioli has, a private office, while writing about Morgan Freeman -- is unfair and is to cast a chill of freedom of the press. No staged colloquy can hide that. We'll have more on this.
Later, after being told to leave even the UN Pass office, a UN Under Secretary General told Inner City Press Gallach had told other USGs that Inner City Press was in fact in the building - that AFTER Inner City Press was told by UN Security, twice, that it is banned from all UN premises and was told to leave the UN Pass office.
Ban Ki-moon's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who'd also told those who questioned him that Inner City Press could end and cover “his” briefing on Monday.
False. UN Security then said, you cannot wait in the pass office, you are banned from all UN premises. Trying to cover the UN Security Council meeting on Syria from the Isaiah plowshares park across from the UN, various Ambassadors came to say they were appalled. But Gallach's office has told then, nothing will be done.
This is disgusting censorship by an increasingly corrupt UN.
As Inner City Press at the UN pursues unfolding stories of corruption, peacekeepers committing rapes in the Central African Republic, UN inaction in Burundi, South Sudan and Yemen, on February 19 with two hours notice UN Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach ordered Inner City Press to be ousted. Letter here.
On the evening of February 19, UN Security Deputy Chief Michael McNulty, who refused to provide his name (audio), pushed Inner City Press out onto First Avenue (audio), having cut off its Periscope video livestream (video) and not allowed it to get its files, coat or passport from its longtime shared office. Gallach wants the office back, to retaliate and so the UN Correspondents Association can, in essence, sell the UN space just as it sells access to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
On February 20, Inner City Press posed four questions to Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq, with a copy to Gallach --which 24 hours later have not been answered or even acknowledged (while both Dujarric and Gallach were wildly spinning to those who contacted them, includingNobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta, see here, who was told there was no problem taking over Inner City Press' office and undermining its ability to report, edit videos, conduct interviews. There is a big problem. Here are the questions:
"Please state the status and condition of all of my papers and property in my office, Room S-303A, including investigative papers, communications from sources including whistleblowers and my passport and when I will have the access to them that I was denied on February 19 and since.
Please state when the Resident Correspondent UN pass I have had for years, but which was torn off my neck on Feb 19, will be returned, in connection with 1, above, and the UNSC meeting(s) and UN Noon Briefing on Monday February 22.
Please state and explain the role of the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary General in the deprivations in 1 and 2, above.
Finally, for now, please state the Secretary-General's position on UN Security Deputy McNulty on February 19 threatening twice to have me “handed over to NYPD” (including the concomitant acceptance by the UN of the NYPD's jurisdiction), of UN Security officers grabbing my phone which was live-broadcasting Periscope video at the UN Security Council stakeout and turning it off.
I have other questions but these are most pressing, for immediate answer."
And as yet, 42 hours later, no answer. Watch this site.
While Inner City Press was writing up a UN Security Council meeting on Syria that went into the evening, and Periscope broadcasting, UN Security guards walked up, grabbed Inner City Press' laptop, blocked its Periscope camera and turned off the livestream. Video here.
Then eight UN Security officers led by Deputy Chief McNulty tore off Inner City Press' UN ID badge and carted off Inner City Press' laptop and camera, returning these by throwing them on the sidewalk of First Avenue. Audio here.
They did not allow Inner City Press to get coat or sweater, or the files in its office. No provision was made for this.
The ejection letter was signed by the Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Galach of Spain but ultimately Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in charge. Ban and his chief of staff Edmond Mulet and Deputy SG Jan Eliasson were all written to with details as this took place.
USG Gallach's office, Darrin Farrant in charge, merely "took note" of questions about and criticism of the lack of due process. Gallach did not respond to email, even from Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, here.
When Inner City Press was thrown out onto First Avenue, standing waiting, laughing and filming, was Voice of America's Margaret Besheer and another board member of the UN Correspondents Association, whose president Giampaoli Pioli told Inner City Press if it didn't remove a (truthful) article about his screening of a war crimes denial film for a tenant of his, Sri Lanka's then ambassador Palitha Kohona, he would get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN.
But who is running this asylum? Ban Ki-moon, his spokesman also involved Stephane Dujarric (who threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, also trying to turn off ICP's Periscoping phone), and, some surmise, some who don't like Inner City Press' questions. We'll have more on this.
The pretext was Inner City Press three weeks earlier seeking to cover a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room by an organization which has taken money from now indicted Ng Lap Seng and Frank Lorenzo's South SOuth News, then gave Ng Lap Seng a photo op with Ban.
(As Inner City Press reported, Gallach attended the South South Awards with Frank Lorenzo, photo here, just before his indictment. She should have been recused from any decision-making on this.)
UN Security demanded ICP's pass - and later tore it off.