Monday, March 7, 2016

At UN, Kazakhstan Festival in Race with Thailand for UNSC, Censorship by UN DPI

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- At the UN the races for UN Security Council seats in 2017-18 are shaping up. On March 7 Kazakhstan hosted a Food Festival in the UN Delegates Dining Room, complete with string quartet and singers crooning in Kazakh and covering Whitney Houston (in English).  Periscope video heretweeted photo here and below.

   Kazakhstan's Permanent Representative, a genial host, mourned for his country's Davis Cup tennis loss to Serbia, and explained to Inner City Press the range of people who settled in Kazakhstan, leading to its diversity. It is not, however, a clean slate: they will complete against Thailand, just as Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands will compete for two seats of the Western European and Other Group (WEOG).

  Kazakhstan's Permanent Representative emphasized the the World Expo, after Italy's Milan, will be in Astana, before Dubai.

  Inevitably, at least these days, the talk turned to press freedom at the UN, or why Inner City Press was physically thrown out of the UN on February 19. The UN official who ordered the ouster, and has yet to reverse it despite calls that began with Nobel Peace Prize laurent Jose Ramos-Horta on February 19 itself, and many since, was present the the Kazakhstan Food Festival.

But just as in the three weeks before her February 19 order (and the months preceding), she did not speak with Inner City Press or seek its side of the story. Many marveled at it. But this is how the UN for now works - or doesn't.

After Inner City Press was summarily ejected from the UN, which it has covered for 10 years, on February 19 (audio here), 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 as of March 7 not allowed to cover anything on the second floor of the UN conference building (ECOSOC, Trusteeship Council), cannot effectively edit videos of UN Q&A, and must leave the building by 7 pm. These are restrictions.

  All this, without any due process, for having sought as a journalist to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29. Petition here.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose office has confirmed receipt of at least three petitions to reverse Gallach's order, and seen protests of the UN in for example Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka for ousting Inner City Press, said these words in Baden-Baden, Germany on March 7:

"journalists face growing efforts to silence their voices – through harassment, censorship and attacks.  Journalists are not criminals.  But they are often mistreated."

Note: on February 19, Inner City Press was physically ousted from the UN Security Council stakeout where it was writing up the evening's Syria meeting and was told "you are a trespasser" in the UN and that it would be handed over to NYPD. Audio here.

 "During the past nine years as Secretary-General, I have been working hard to defend the press."

  Well, the above happened on February 19, and restrictions remain in place with no right to appeal, and no due process. Ban and his senior advisers have been informed of it.

  On February 26 the Government Accountability Project, which defends whistleblowers, wrote to the US Mission to the UN, Ambassador of Management and Reform Isobel Coleman, to ask the US to ensure Inner City Press gets back its office and Resident Correspondent's pass. GAP letter here.

  GAP's Beatrice Edwards cited the UN's lack of due process and of rules, and the seeming retaliation against Inner City Press for its reporting. (There's also the physical ouster of Inner City Press, audio here.) Other missions have openly taken action: what will the US Mission do?

 On February 29, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric another question about UN - this time DPI - seeming corruption, and about GAP's letter, Video hereUN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I'd asked you previously about South-South News, which is pretty much in… is in this indictment of Mr. [Francis] Lorenzo and Mr. Ng Lap Seng as a conduit for funds for the alleged bribery at the UN, why its… its footage and a number of its pieces are included in UNTV in an archive, and I checked today.  They're still there.

I wanted to know, since there's no other med… non-UN media that I can find that has its material inside that archive, why is that, and why does it remain to be the case, given the fact that it's named as a vehicle for bribery?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Obviously, I think that's a question you can address to my colleagues in DPI.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  They're not communicating too well.

Spokesman:  [Calls on another.]

Inner City Press: Again, I'll keep it very short, but I wanted to ask you, the Government Accountability Project, which you know, which represented Mr. [Anders] Kompass and other UN whistle-blowers, has issued a letter on Friday in which they say… they call for… I guess I'll put it in personal terms… for my resident correspondent pass to be returned and my office.  And they say the action was retaliatory in response to independent critical journalism.  I'd like to know what your response to this respected group reaching that conclusion is.

Spokesman:  My simple response would be no, and I'm sure they will get a response from whoever they addressed the letter to.

 We'll see.

 Meanwhile in defense of Ban and Gallach, anonymous troll account has taken to tweeting, now at Spanish journalists, that Gallach is fine and didn't throw Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours notice without once speaking to it. But those are the fact. Among the new troll account's followers are Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and four UNCA board members, plus Reuters bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, who has a history with this, see here.

  Because as a working journalist it needed access to cover the February 25 UN Security Council meeting about North Korea, and only in connection with filing a lawyer's letter telling Gallach and the UN not to touch Inner City Press' office or files, Inner City Press late morning entered the UN with a so-called "Green P" non-resident correspondents pass.

  At the day's noon briefing, after asking of Burundi, Western Sahara, Darfur and the UN corruption scandals, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric two simple question, to which he said #AskGallach. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I'd like this to go smoothly, so I'll do it really quickly.  I noticed that on Monday, when I was not able to attend the briefing, that you had a little Q&A about my accreditation status.  So, I just want to state one thing very briefly.  A legal letter has been received by DPI [Department of Public Information] to not touch my office, not touch any of the files, but I need to cover the meeting this afternoon.  I'm just stating that, because I thought it was inappropriate.  But, my question is as follows:  Is it common UN practice to… to tell a journalist to leave the building and give up Resident Correspondent status without ever once speaking to them?  Is that considered an investigation?  What is the lowest standard that the UN can go to to have something to be considered a review of the facts?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I would encourage you to direct all those questions to Ms. [Cristina] Gallach and to DPI.

Inner City Press:  I have one more question.  What are the rules for the use of physical force by UN security?  Because on Friday evening, I was pushed down the escalator and into the street, and my laptop was thrown on the street, and I… and I was offering absolutely zero physical… physical… so I wanted to know what is the recourse for someone to whom this happens?  That's my question.

Spokesman:  I would encourage you to raise all these issues having to do with your accreditation, your treatment, and so forth to Ms. Gallach.

Question:  What are the rights of people not to be pushed by UN security?

Spokesman:  That's… that was my answer to your question.  Thank you.

  Wait - so the UN has no protocols on the use of force? Or DPI's Gallach is in charge of the use of force, and ordered it? How can the UN and USG Gallach be so contemptuous to the most basic forms of due process?

Inner City Press is opposing all this.

  And so now are a range of people from around the world, who have signed a petition to immediately restore Inner City Press to the UN Resident Correspondent accreditation it had for nine years until, without any due process, the UN pass was physically torn from its chest as UN Security throw its laptop onto the sidewalk in front of the UN (also owned by the UN and immunity from US law including the First Amendment).

Here are just some of the comments of those signing the petition directed to Ban Ki-moon:

UN cover-up artists are taking advantage of the dying months of Ban Ki-moon's tenure to remove a thorn in their side, because they are worried the new SG won't want to start out with a fight. -James Bone, Shelter Island Heights, NY

ICP has been the only voice for the oppressed in #Burundi, #Haiti & #Yemen at #UN. -Eloge Tinya, Lagos, Nigeria

Innercitypress is the voice of many oppressed Burundians and many Africans under dictatorship. I have decided to stand with the oppressed and not the oppressor, UN needs to practice what it preaches by setting free innercitypress to do his work! -Lievin Manisha, Pineville, LA

ICP asked questions that will bring clarity on the agreement the Prime Minister of Dominica signed in Macau on August 25, 2015 together with Ng Lap Seng and a UN official. -Hon. Hector John, Salisbury, Dominica

I am signing for UN to restore Matthew Lee Inner City Press right to access to the UN as a Resident Correspondent to question authorities because it is the fundamental of free speech as the UN preaches to other countries it must first practice itself to set example. -Smret Kibrom, San Gallo, Switzerland

Freedom of press. -Prem Kumar, India

innercitypress defends the human rights of Burundians and help to avoid genocide, please free innercitypress! - MICHAEL Tim, London, United Kingdom

I'm signing because the barring of access to Mr. Lee appears to be at worst motivated by a reluctance to engage with and continue to receive the probing questions he asks, and at best the result of a petty personal vendetta based on unprofessional antipathy towards Mr. Lee by the 'respectable' wing of the United Nations press corps. -Marlon Ettinger, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

I am signing this petition for Matthew Russell Lee and Inner City Press be restored to the shared UN office and Resident Correspondent accreditation they have had for eight years prior to this pretextual incident. It also requests, as does the Free UN Coalition for Access that Matthew co-founded, that an investigation be launched into how all of this occurred. Moreover to call for aggressive investigative journalism at the UN and to tell the leaders of the UN that the UN, too, must live up to the principles of due process and freedom of the press. -Martha Fassil, New York, NY

Comment l'onu peut agir de sorte alors qu'ils sont comme meilleur modèle de la démocratie, je garde espoir qu'on aura un jour un vrai dirigeants de l'onu pour tous. -Steve Ndacasaba, Montréal, Canada

I'm signing cause, want a real journalist who tells it like it is. No agenda but the truth. I am supporting him for standing up for UN bully. -Paulos Welday, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Han er en journalist som forteller sannheten til verden.
Mussie Tesfay, Oslo, Norway

UN should walk the talk. Practice what you preach - rule of law, democracy, freedom of expression, of press. Reinstate ICP Mathew Russell Lee to full resident reporter. -Seble Ephrem, London, United Kingdom

we need a voice for africa
redae medhane, Kitchener, Canada

Incredible. This banning is the exact opposite of the transparency and accountability that the UN should be defending for all institutions. This must be reversed.
Denis Rancourt, Ottawa, Canada

ICP is the most reliable source of information at the UN. The other corporate media are controlled by the special interest groups. Thus their journalistic integrity is always suspect. ICP is voice of the voiceless - of course unlike the UN and its sponsors and financiers. -tsehaie mahary, edmonton, Canada

I express my solidarity with Mathew, God bless you friend
Mohamed MAYARA, El Aaiun, Western Sahara

Matthew Lee has been a lone voice asking the difficult questions in the UN press gallery. -Martin Field, Geneva, Switzerland

I have seen Matthew only defending the truth. He is a journalist with a genuine journalist ethics. He is also the one of the most intelligent and courageous journalist. He is a model how other journalist should be. He should be given a noble prize for what he does not get banned from the UN. -Yacob Woldehiwot, London, United Kingdom

The UN cannot be dismissive of new media as people get their news from new media.The UN cannot pick and choose media persons according to their whims and fancies. -soraya patel, India

Shame on UN. -ibrahim alhaifi, Sanaa, Yemen

I believe this is censorship of the press. Shameful. -Douglas Smith, New York, NY

I believe this is censorship of the press. Shameful. -Douglas Smith, New York, NY
I'm signing because I believe in ICP to bring balance to the reporting of UN activities around the globe. I also believe in the ability of Lee to investigate, without fear or favour, to keep the UN reputation intact. -Saare Tsehaye, London, United Kingdom

Because this is censorship on free press. Inner City stands for Truth, Justice & Peace !!! -Aman Kubrom, Frankfurt, Germany

How can the UN be so ridiculous?
Feridun Akpinar, Turku, Finland

For Truth & Transparency, there must always be those who Question more. -Auet Melache, Bolton, United Kingdom

I am signing because UN is being unfair and need to take some responsibility. -Lynda Charles, Boynton Beach, FL

He's credible and follows the ethics of journalism to the fullest. -Amanuel Tseggai, Stone Mountain, GA

We need the alternative,independent and investigative media to be present everywhere. -Marja Konttila, Solna, Sweden

I demand the U.N. unconditionaly and ASAP to restore access to Inner City Press`Matthew Russell Lee to the U.N. as a Resident Correspondent. -johannes abraham, Germany

I believe in press giving independant views on ignored issues
Cyrilla Bwakira, Johannesburg, South Africa

Ban is a tool. -Michael Klett, San Francisco, CA

InnerCity Press has been very professional and a life saver. His reports on different issues around the world helped uncover certain hidden truths. If Ban was in #Burundi 2 days ago, I can say it is mainly because of his persistence of bringing Burundi to light from the repression of de facto president
Manirambona Juma, Kirundo, Burundi

Matt spells out the truth and exposes the games protecting the outdated system for what it currently is.Matt actually supports the principle of the UN, those within it, support themselves. -Andy Wren, Littlestone, United Kingdom

Weil ich sihe das innercity einsige unabhengige median vetretete vor
Stimmenloss. -Iassu nugusse, Germany

Matthew Russell Lee, founder of the Inner City Press, is a veteran investigative journalist I have relied upon on UN news for the past six years. He is truthful, and pursues truth in reporting tenaciously and with integrity. We need more journalists like him at the UN to keep us informed. He and his Inner City Press must be reinstated as a fully accredited resident journalist to the UN. -Elias Amare, San Rafael, CA

We need unbiased and impartial reporting from the UN. -David Macilwain, Australia

Does the UN have something to hide? The UN is also obligated by the same principles and norms it preaches. I demand the UN to reinstate Matthew Russell Lee to his desk so he can do what he does best- pure journalism. He is the only honest journalist at the UN compound and being the voice of the voiceless. -Daniel Berhe, Seattle, WA

I am signed because ICP thrown out on the street by the decorator of UN media Personnel with out his belongings Shame UN. -Yakob Tesfaye, Edmonton, Canada

I am signing this because I want to learn about the corrupt UN security council.

I respectively ask UNSG and Mr Ban ki-moon to reture Matt to his post us a dedicated reporter in the UN. I have a huge respect for the guy. It would be a travesty of justice if a reporter like matt is out the office of the biggest office in the world when we need a reporter of such kind. -Kibrom tekeste, berkeley, CA

I'am signing because I believe in freedom of speach and Free Press Reporters/Journalists. -Ndayizeye APOLLINAIRE, Gatineau (Hull), Canada

The UN repeatedly acts like human rights protections apply to everyone but themselves. -Betsey Chace, Cambridge, MA

Matthew is the only bona fide journalist reporting on UN. He alone is rectifying the defects created by system of diplomatic immunity. Why makes his job harder? Do you have something to hide from him? He makes UN a more acceptable organization and indeed, by genuinely reporting he makes this world a better place. -T Chan, London, United Kingdom

I am signing for UN to restore Matthew Lee Inner City Press right to access to the UN as a Resident Correspondent to question authorities because it is the fundamental of free speech as the UN preaches to other countries it must first practice itself to set example.
Sara Haile, Alexandria, VA

Matthew Lee is, far and away, the hardest-working and most dogged of any journalist at the United Nations. His arbitrary expulsion is both outrageous and a reflection of the fact that things are not as they should be at the United Nations, and certainly not what YOU would expect. - alberto martin, New York, NY

He is the best one, for the world in the UN which tells us the truth. So if he is out of his work then the UN only remains with out the truth.
ghebreyohanis michiel, bachenbülach, Switzerland

Burundi medias burned by violent/genocidaire regime;our genuine source of information from UN was ICP:fair,not sided.Pls,Reestablish ICP in its rights!
Ange Nganji, Bujumbura, Burundi

I'm signing because I believe in the freedom of the press. I often reads Matthew Lee's work which reports on difficult topics and events that need covering and exposure. He should be reinstated at your earliest convenience.
Rebecca Myles, New York, NY

I'm signing because I'm an advocate for real, independent journalism and condemn the UN's decision to remove Inner City Press's access based on a nonsensical pretext! -Hermon Gebrai, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom

I appreciate Inner City Press' persistent and prepared journalism at the United Nations. -Brian Concannon Jr., Marshfield, MA

The UN needs to be held to standards of openess, transparency and freedom of the press. -Samuel Horton, Silsden, United Kingdom

Lee should not have been expelled, it's a disgrace to the UN. -Richard Johnson, Potomac, MD

It's unfair to throw someone out like that with out hearing from his side of history. -Hermon Tsegay, Slough, United Kingdom

Such a crck down on media in an organization promoting freedom of speech and information is really awkward and clearly disgraceful and unacceptable. -Florent Nduwayo, Kibungo, Rwanda

This is another in a long line of incidents conclusively evidencing the UN's complete and utter disrespect for the laws of its HOST country, the US, in particular the 1st amendment!! UN IMMUNITY = IMPUNITY--END IT NOW!! Journalists are the ultimate whistleblowers, and I am well aware of how UN whistleblowers like Mr Lee are persecuted and suffer grievous harm at the hands of rogue UN officials. The treatment of Mr. Lee is an outrage.

How ironic this has happened just as the US House Committde on Foreign Relations is today, on 24 Feb, holding a hearing about the gross mistreatment of whistleblowers at the UN and WIPO. Congress must act now to cut off 15% of US appropriations to the UN this year on account of its failure to protect and encourage UN whistleblowers like Mr Lee, as provided for in US law, as it already did to WIPO!! -ted beacher, Geneva, Switzerland

ICP is doing a great job. UN should support,respect and promote free speech. -Kalu Thapa, Kathmandu, Nepal

There are more...

 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.

  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.