Saturday, March 12, 2016
Banning ICP From Covering UNSC Reform, UN DPI's Cristina Gallach Claims Inner City Press Has "Total Access"
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- 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 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta, who contacted her to oppose her arbitrary decision, that Inner City Press would still be able to cover the UN.
Now Gallach, even having been informed that Inner City Press can no longer for example go to the second floor of the UN Conference Building and speak with diplomats entering and exiting meetings like today's on UN Security Council reform, repeats the same position to others.
Gallach wrote, "Mr Lee has a Press accreditation that allows him to cover all events in the UN, as the rest of accredited journalists." She even referred to "total access."
This is false.
For example, today's General Assembly meeting on Security Council reform is "closed." But those with Resident Correspondent accreditation, which Gallach stripped from Inner City Press without any due process and only two hours notice on February 19, can use their pass to swipe through the turnstile on the second floor and stakeout outside the meeting, speaking with diplomats.
Inner City Press cannot - its new restricted pass does not open the second floor turnstile. It has been Banned from this type of coverage.
It was precisely by staking out outside "Closed" meetings that Inner City Press got and covered such stories as Sri Lankan alleged war criminal Shavendra Silva being one of Ban Ki-moon's Senior Advisers on Peacekeeping. Staking out closed meetings of the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping, Inner City Press quoted even South Asian ambassadors on what an outrage it was.
Now Inner City Press is Banned from such coverage, and the UN Department of Public "Information" is misleading those who contact it.
Again, Inner City Press is as of March 8 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.
But USG Gallach continues to repeat the mantra that reducing the Press' ability to do journalism at the UN by 60% is fine. A group wrote to her that
"it is paramount importance that journalists of Mr. Lee's caliber continue to monitor the UN system and we firmly stand behind him. We urge you to resolve the dispute with him and restore to Mr. Lee his Resident Correspondent accreditation and ICP's long-time office which he uses to do his journalistic work. We do not find the punishment in your February 19 letter to be proportionate even to what it's claimed he did: seek to cover an even in the UN's own Press Briefing Room. Why was that meeting in that UN Press Briefing Room anyway, if it was 'private'?"
This question -- who "lent' the UN Press Briefing Room to a group connected to the very UN bribery scandal discussed on March 8 in the UN Budget Committee, here, and why -- has yet to be answered. Instead, USG Gallach from her phone at 10 pm, after a Kazakhstan event, robo-replied:
"I can firmly clarify to you that Mr Lee has a press pass that allows him total access to press conferences, media stake outs and press conferences in the UN building. I am convinced that the coverage about the issues you care most [sic] is totally will be not at all affected."
That is FALSE. Inner City Press is now restricted from the entire second floor of the UN conference building, must leave the building by 7 pm, cannot conduct interviews or edit videos in its long time shared office - for trying to cover a meeting, in the Press Briefing Room, of an entity also connected by South South to the UN bribery scandal?Petition here.
USG Gallach's response was cc-ed to Ban's spokesman Dujarric, who cannot claim to not know the restrictions on the pass Inner City Press has been, without due process, confined to. On March 8 he said, we will not characterize it, "People are free to demonstrate." (Vine here.)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose office has confirmed receipt of at least three petitions to reverse Gallach's order, and seenprotests 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 here, UN 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.
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
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
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
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
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. unconditionally and ASAP to restore access to Inner City Press`Matthew Russell Lee to the U.N. as a Resident Correspondent. -johannes abraham, Germany
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
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
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 respectively ask UNSG and Mr Ban ki-moon to return Matt to his post as 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
The UN repeatedly acts like human rights protections apply to everyone but themselves. -Betsey Chance, 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
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
Freedom of the press. -Luiz Rampelotto, New York, NY
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 Committe 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.