Thursday, March 24, 2016

Inner City Press Asked UN Why South South News in UNTV, Partial Answer, DPI Links

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusives

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- 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. But his UN put South South News content in its UNTV archive, which after Press questions it as only partial explained; links with DPI remains unexplained.

 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 24 - on the 23rd, Haq forestalled any South South News follow up by saying, only one more question -- Inner City Press asked Haq again, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On South-South News, the other day, I asked you some specific questions, of how their content was included in UN webcast archives, I went back and looked.  This is something that I asked in October.  So, you'd said that somebody is looking into it.  Given that it's now March, what exactly have… how have they been looking into it?  And also, I want to read you something that's on South-South News's website today, which says, South-South News received backing of UN Under-Secretary-General of Department of Public Information.  And I wanted to know… I'm looking at it now.  Does this still stand?  What do you say to this presentation?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Yes, my colleague did look into this.  The request was from UN-Habitat to use some information that was provided by South-South News for a project by Habitat.

Inner City Press: I just am noting on the South-South News question that there's more than one use, and one that I'm looking at now is called "A High-level Political Forum:  A Focus on Climate", and it has nothing to do with UN-Habitat.  So, I guess I'd encourage you, since it was asked in October, there's not just one… there probably is one that's from UN-Habitat, but there are number of them.

 Where will it end? Including USG of DPI support?

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.

Now that Lorenzo has formally pleaded guilty to bribery, the implications of the October 2015 charge sheet, which called Ng's and Lorenzo's South South News "NGO 1" -- casts new light on the ouster - and the ousters.

  Since October 2015, the UN  -- and its partner the UN Correspondents Association -- have been on notice that South South News was the vehicle for $12 million in bribes from Ng Lap Seng.

  UNCA took some of this month, and delivered for Ng a photo op with Ban Ki-moon.

  But for Inner City Press trying to cover, on just this corruption issues, the UNCA event in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and head of Communications Cristina Gallach threw Inner City Press into the street, Banned it from its office and cut its accreditation.

  By contrasts, exposed South South News still has its UN office. Corruption is fine in Ban's UN - it's trying to COVER corruption that bring down disproportionate punishment, with no due process.

As described in the charge sheet, Lorenzo was president of South South News, through which Ng Lap Seng funnels $12 million in bribes from 2009 on.

(South South News is called "NGO-1" but also a self-described "21st Century media platform" - South South News.)

As Inner City Press has asked about and reported, South South News funnel tens of thousands of dollars into the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA). Then UNCA delivered Ban Ki-moon for a private photo-op with Ng Lap Seng, precisely when Ng was seeking / paying for anything seeming to show UN support for the Macau conference center he was trying to build.

 How should South South News' payments to UNCA, and UNCA's role in Ng's photo op with Ban, be viewed? The question has been and will be asked. UNCA's response? A number of anonymous troll social media accounts, of the type Media Bistro linked in 2013 at the UN to Reuters and AFP, here. The difference this time is that Dujarric and DPI chief Gallach follow them, and one of Dujarric's staff openly "likes" the troll.

UNCA, Dujarrch and Gallach functionally tried to stop Inner City Press from covering this, see below. And the questioning, and reporting on corruption and censorship, has not been by wire services entertwined with UNCA. Inner City Press has raised this to them; watch this site.

  On February 19 Inner City Press was ordered out of the UN, which it has covered for ten years as a Resident Correspondent with a shared office full of files, by a letter signed that day with two hours notice by Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach - who attended the September 2015 South South Awards with Lorenzo, photo here.

  On Gallach's order, and with the participation of Ban's spokesman Dujarric, Inner City Press was thrown out onto First Avenue along with its laptop, but without its passport still in its shared office, by eight UN Security guards.Audio here. On February 22, UN Security told Inner City Press it was Banned from all UN premises.

  After stories in BuzzFeed and Business Insider, Inner City Press re-entered the UN on a much reduced “non-resident correspondent” pass, Banned from covering such events as UN Security Council reform, Sri Lanka and terrorism, and the Office of the President of the General Assembly. (Inner City Press has continued, with sources, to report, for example here.)

  The harassment continued: hours after Inner City Press raised its case orally to Ban Ki-moon and his deputy, UN Security against physically ordered Inner City Press to leave the UN, at 8 pm.  Video here.

Dujarric said it is not his job to find Inner City Press a place to work. Q&A here. More and seemingly final threats were made on March 14 -- just before it emerged that Lorenzo is pleading guilty to bribery charges. Now what?

  The UN has proved itself unable to reform itself. Under Secretaries General Inner City Press contacted about Gallach's outrageous no due process order, and her failure to recuse herself, did nothing. One said, You can only speak with Gallach; another said, I don't get involved in individual cases.

On March 14, after the threats and asked about Inner City Press' detailed email about the violation of its rights as a journalist, a third USG said, Do you expect me to respond to that? Well, yes.

  The DC-based Government Accountability Project wrote to the US Mission to the UN urging them to work to get Inner City Press' resident correspondent accreditation and office restored. But US Ambassador for Management and Reform Isobel Coleman did not even respond to Inner City Press' detailed March 3 email; an oral question to Samantha Power at the UN Security Council stakeout on March 14 after the threats has gone unanswered. Vine here.

  Now what? Beyond Lorenzo's guilty plea, how will the UN be cleaned up? All retaliatory acts must be rescinded and appropriate impartial investigations launched.

The pretext Gallach used to oust Inner City Press was its attempt on January 29 to cover a meeting of the UN Correspondents Association, which took money from Lorenzo's South South News and then granted a photo op with Ban Ki-moon to the main funder, also indicted Ng Lap Seng.

The meeting was in the UN Press Briefing Room, apparently “lent” to UNCA by Ban's spokesman Dujarric, who at UNCA boss Giampaolo Pioli's request came in and told Inner City Press to leave so he could see his “f*cking kids.”

Inner City Press said it would leave the glassed in interpreter's booth from which it was live-streaming the meeting as soon as UN Security asked it to. One guard came in and said that Spokesman Dujarric wanted Inner City Press to leave, which it did, and published a story and video.

  Without once speaking to Inner City Press, Gallach used this “incident” as a pretext to throw Inner City Press out. Inner City Press has asked the UN the following questions:

Please explain the lending of the UN Press Briefing Room to Lorenzo, and that it was not listed in the days' UN Media Alert.

Please explain USG Gallach's appearance with Lorenzo at the South South Awards, which ICP reported, and that USG Gallach did not recuse herself from ordering Inner City Press' expulsion from its UN office on 2 hours' notice on February 19.

Please explain your [Dujarric's] role, on January 29 to February 19, in the expulsion of Inner City Press.

Please state who lend the UN Press Briefing Room to UNCA on Jan 29.

As a matter of UN ethics, shouldn't USG Gallach have offered me an opportunity to be heard, some due process?

As a matter of UN ethics, to whom an the UN Press Briefing Room be "lent," and by whom, on what basis, without disclosure?

Please provide your response: should staff of the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, and staff of DPI, accept free liquor and other gift from UNCA, while giving UNCA the UN Press Briefing Room and ousting other journalist whom UNCA's leadership doesn't like?

Please state, no or yes and explain: Do staff of the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General provide advance copies of UN documents to favored journalists who are affiliated to UNCA?

And now: “This is a formal request for Ban Ki-moon's comment on the guilty plea for conspiracy to commit bribery etc by Frank Lorenzo.” Watch this site.