Wednesday, March 23, 2016

ICP Asks UN of South South News Links, Ban's Matching Fund, Spox Says "Bullied"

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusives

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- For more than six months Inner City Press has asked the UN about its dealings with South South News, run by Vivian Wang and Frank Lorenzo, former Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic and head of South South News, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery at the UN.

 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had accepted a South South prize from Lorenzo and Wang, as Inner City Press reported in October 2015, never commented.

 Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on February 9 told Inner City Press, “I'm done answering questions.” Vine here. On February19, Inner City Press was ousted from the UN, see below.

 On March 18, Vivian Wang of South South News was indicted. While much of the coverage -- and UN spin -- tried to distance the UN Secretariat from the expanding scandal, it's important at this point to return to Ban Ki-moon with Vivian Wang, here; and Ban's "Communications" official who cut Inner City Press' accreditation with no due process, Cristina Gallach, with Vivian Wang, here.  And here are Ban and Gallach together:

Ban swears in Gallach, Feb 3, 2015, credit UN Photo/Mark Garten

On March 22, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq questions about South South News, which Haq characterized as "bullying," video here,UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: Can I ask you about South-South News?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Yeah.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  In light of the new indictment of Vivian Wang, I have some questions, because the intertwining of the UN, particularly DPI (Department of Public Information) and South-South News seems extensive, so just in rapid fire…

Deputy Spokesman:  I would object to that characterization, but proceed.

Inner City Press:  All right.  Then let's see.  Let's go down the line.  In the 64th meeting of the UN-DPI NGO, there's a reference slipped into the text to South-South News distribution.  I want to know, is that at reference to South-South News?  And if so, what's it doing in there?  I also wanted to know, Stéphane Dujarric did an interview with South-South News, which is online.  There was a matching programme for a grant, a thing that the Secretary-General appeared at in which, on UN News Centre itself, it says this was a matching grant from South-South News.  What was the protocol for this now maligned or described as essentially corrupt and a vehicle for bribery entity to make such matching grants?  I also wanted to know, as I've asked before without explanation, how South-South News got its content into the UN webcast archives, which no other entity does.  So I'll stop, there's more, but since you say they're not intertwined, can you describe those five intertwinings and what the UN is going to do about it given that South-South News is not part of the Ban Ki-moon-defined audit of bribery in the UN?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Well, we'll see what any audit… what the results of an audit are once that's completed, first off.  Second off, I believe we researched into the appearance of South-South News on the UN archive.  I believe one of my colleagues has been looking into that, and we'll try to get further information on that.  Stéphane Dujarric gives interviews to lots and lots of people, including most of you in this very room.  That has nothing to do with checking out the credentials of who it is who is interviewing him when that happens.

Inner City Press:  Since the… [cross talk]

Deputy Spokesman:  It’s the same as with the rest of us.  Please stop interrupting me.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  Well, you did yesterday.  Yesterday you walked out as I was asking questions.  So I just want to make sure you remain…

Deputy Spokesman:  You were not asking questions.

Inner City Press:  Yes, I was.

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  No, you were trying to defend an action that you took some time ago which you know to be in the wrong.  I'm not going to engage with you on that.  I’ve said my piece on that. [cross talk]

Inner City Press:  I was asking you a question about how this room was used.  [cross talk]  Say whatever you want, but don't leave the podium, please, until the questions are finished.

Deputy Spokesman:  I will answer all your questions.  I do not give in to bullying from anyone any time.  Anyway…

Inner City Press:  You're the one at the podium.

Deputy Spokesman:  I do not give in to bullying from anyone at any time.  Anyway, regarding the status of South-South News, however, I mean, in light of the latest information, that is something that is being reviewed.  And we'll have to see where we go with that.

Inner City Press:  So this one where it says… it saysmatching funds from the media platform South-South News, this is a News Centre story.  What is that about?  Can you… I guess I'm wondering, you said that you're looking into the archives, but I asked this questionmore than a month ago.  So how long does it take to find out how, during the tenure that Mr. Dujarric was in charge of UN Television, this information got put in?  I mean, what exactly are you doing to investigate it is my question.

Deputy Spokesman:  One of my colleagues has been asking around about how that was.  Yes?

On March 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, Vine here (full video not given by 8 pm), UN transcript here.

  If South South Chediek belatedly takes questions on his dealings, it will be more than what's been done by Cristina Gallach, who after refusing to directly answer Inner City Press' October 2015 question about her attendance at the South South Awards with Frank Lorenzo threw Inner City Press out of the UN with no due process on Feb 19.

  Given Gallach's dealings with Vivian Wang, and that Inner City Press has questioned Gallach in October 2015 about her South South dealings, it seems clear that in any legitimate system, Gallach would have had to recuse herself from any decision to oust Inner City Press and cut its accreditation. We'll have more on this.

On March 18 while Inner City Press, ousted from the UN, hounded from its lobby even at 8 pm, sought answers at the US State Department briefing in Washington, at the UN in New York Ban's spokesman and Reuters engaged in any easy colloquy about the indictment.

But South South News gave money to the UN Correspondents Association, on whose board Reuters has what appears to be a permanent seat. Are they in a position to pursue the ramifications of South South News' corruption? No.

 In fact, Reuters in 2012 tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN (sample FOIA document here, documents Reuters bureau chief Banned from Google's Search here) and in 2013 along with AFP, as now at all hours, was associated with an anti-Press anonymous troll social media account. We'll have more on this.