Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On Western Sahara, Ban Ki-moon's Spox Told Inner CIty Press No Comment, Then Ban's Lawyer Miguel de Serpa Soares Issued Threat

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, tellingly though his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, issued a non-apology apology to Morocco on March 28, “regretting misunderstandings.”

  Even those close to Ban tell Inner City Press that Ban cares like for the Saharawis, only that he was "personally insulted" by Morocco's protests and wants to retaliate, as his UN did on Inner City Press on February 19and now.

  While Banned from the Security Council stakeout but not yet from the UN Press Briefing Room, at least not during the noon briefing, Inner CIty Press asked Ban's Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: on Western Sahara, there’s an article in the Moroccan press quoting the press conference on Thursday of the Foreign Minister, saying that he was that… that… he believes Ban Ki-moon, when he met with him on the Monday of last week, committed to make an apology.  He said it’s because of this lack of an apology that the decision to not allow MINURSO to return is irreversible.  So I wanted to know, did he misunderstand the meeting, or is this a misreport?  And also there’s separately a report by the UN volunteers who left MINURSO and went I guess back home that somehow they feel they’re being cheated out of money, that it’s a security withdrawal because of the threat of, forced by Morocco, but it’s not being acknowledged as such.  So I’m wondering, what is their status?


Spokesman Dujarric:  We can check with UNV what their status is.  I’m not going to comment on what the Foreign Minister said.  I think the Secretary-General’s position was laid out clearly just today.  Again, I think, as I just read, the Secretary-General regrets the misunderstanding and consequences that the personal expression of solicitude provoked.

Question:  I have a question of how the stakeout on Western Sahara on the 24th was run.  I can ask now or at the end, whichever you prefer.

Spokesman:  Let’s ask later. [See & UN retaliation.]

Meanwhile Ban's head of Communications Cristina Gallach had Inner City Press Banned from covering the UN Security Council meeting on Western Sahara on March 21, and in a Kafka-esque show required a UN minder for Inner City Press on March 24, then misrepresented it to Western Sahara supporters in New Zealand, see below.

  Here is what Ban's spokesman Dujarric said as an “if-asked” (tweeted by @InnerCityPress) on March 28, when Dujarric refused to explain Gallach's (and his?) minder requirement:

“it is useful to understand the circumstances of the Secretary-General's use of the word 'occupation.' He used it one single time in response to a press question, noting that he had been moved and saddened to see the harsh conditions in which men, women and children have been living for decades. His use of this word was not planned or deliberate. It was a spontaneous personal reaction.

“We regret the misunderstandings and consequences that this personal expression of solicitude provoked, especially since the main purpose of the Secretary General's trip was to focus on the need for a mutually acceptable way forward that would, among other things, end the tribulation of the refugees.”

   Now "tribulation," not occupation - or, as the UN does, seizure. When to respond to Morocco's ouster of the MINURSO mission from Western Sahara the UN Security Council met at 8:30 am on March 21, Inner City Press arrived to cover the meeting, as it has Council meetings on the topic each April and October.

 But this time, it was unable to access the Security Council stakeout in order to speak with diplomats for its reporting. Video here. Any reporter with a Resident Correspondent pass, as Inner City Press had for eight years, could go to the stakeout. But not Inner City Press, not anymore.

   The reason Inner City Press was Banned from stakeout out the Western Sahara meeting was UN Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach's February 19 letter telling it, on two hours notice, to leave the UN after ten years of coverage. Letter here. Gallach never once spoke to Inner City Press before issuing the order.

   The results of Gallach's order, which remains in place as of March 26, is systemic exclusion from covering and staking out events ranging from Sri Lanka counter-terrorism to the process for selecting Ban Ki-moon's successor, from UN Security Council reform to an event about slavery, the UN's memorial to which has funded since indicted and pleaded guilty to bribery at the UN.

   After the March 24 UN Security Council consultations on Western Sahara, just after the reading out o the Council's “Press Elements,” things hit a new low. UN Department of Public Information staff, working for Gallach, told Inner City Press it had to leave the Security Council stakeout even as other pro-Morocco journalists were conducting interviews with diplomats.

   After Inner City Press stated this was censorship attributable to Gallach, her staff's “solution” was even more Kafka-esque: Inner City Press would require an escort, or minder, as it conducted interviews. Obviously, diplomats desiring to speak on background about Ban's performance on Western Sahara would not do so in the presence of a minder working for Ban's Secretariat.

   What has led to this censorship or Banning of the Press at the UN, on Western Sahara, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Burundi and other topics?

  While Gallach's February 19 letter is vague, in the “incident” she alludes to Inner City Press sought to report on an event, nowhere listed as closed, held in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29.

It was a meeting of the UN Correspondents Association, and Inner City Press wanted to cover it to see if the group's having under Giampaolo Pioli taken money from thhe South South News of now indicted Ng Lap Seng's and Vivian Wang's (and Frank Lorenzo, who has pleaded guilty) would be discussed. UNCA's Pioli demanded that UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric ask Inner City Press to leave.

 When despite no showing that it was a “Closed Meeting” a single UN Security officer told Inner City Press that Dujarric wanted Inner City Press to leave, it did.

   But the disagreement about the right to exclude the press from the UN Press Briefing Room was used by Gallach -- and it seems UNCA “leaders” including Giampaolo Pioli and at least two news services which now operate anonymous troll social media accounts -- to three weeks later, on two hours notice and with no due process, order Inner City Press out.

   Because the UNCA trolls, which are followed by and echo Gallach, repetitively tell anyone they can that Inner City Press is not restricted in any way in covering the UN -- which is a lie -- Inner City Press notes not only the obvious - that Gallach is Spain's highest UN official - but also the following:

After the March 24 Western Sahara meeting of the UN Security Council, Gallach tweeted to a questioner from New Zealand who asked, “why did you remove the accreditation of Inner City Press?” Gallach replied, photo here, that “I did not! ICP is fully accredited! Can report from UN.?His privilege to use office was taken out, due to misbehavior.”Photo of Gallach's tweet here.

  This is false. On March 21, Inner City Press was unable to reach the stakeout of the UN Security Council on Western Sahara as it had been able, until Gallach's decision of February 19. And on March 25, the moment Security Council president Gaspar Martins finished reading out the elements to the press - and Inner City Press but not the swearing UNCA boss Pioli asked him a question -- UN DPI staff told Inner City Press to leave the stakeout, even as diplomats remain.

  Inner City Press said that to report on the meeting, it need to speak to the diplomats, many of whom has in the past spoken with in on background. But now with its Gallach-reduced pass, DPI staff said Inner City Press required an “escort” or minder to remain on the second floor.

  What diplomat desiring to speak on background about Ban Ki-moon's questionable performance on Western Sahara would do so in view of a minder from Ban's Secretariat? It is FALSE that Inner City Press is fully accredited. And it is significant that, well before March 25, Gallach has been multiply informed of the impact of the restrictions she imposed without due process. As to Western Sahara, for example, the impacts -and intent? - are clear.

  Furthermore, the “misbehavior” repeatedly citing by Gallach illusory. UNCA should have have been trying to hold a “closed” meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room - even Francois Hollande could not do that - and the event was nowhere listed as closed. Inner City Press live tweeted and live streamed it openly, from the booth in the back to avoid the heckling of Pioli's gang.

  Dispositively, on March 23 UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq did nothing when two non interpreters were in the interpretation booth during the noon briefing. There is no clear rule, at least none that is enforced.

  But compared to this disagreement, isn't coming to the UN Security Council stakeout to loudly call another reporter “an asshole” misbehavior?UNCA chief Giampaolo Pioli, who lobbied Gallach to throw Inner City Press out, came to the UN Security Council stakeout on Western Sahara and loudly and repeatedly called Inner City Press “an asshole.” Audio here. Gallach's February 19 letter citing some rule about civility. Will she enforce it on Pioli?

 Gallach's ruling must be reversed. Watch this site.

The day after the UN Security Council issued mere Elements to the Press on Morocco's ouster of much of the UN's MINURSO mission, Moroccan media stole a photograph taken by Inner CIty Press and false said it was Ambassador Omar Hilale flashing the victory sign on the way into a lunch with Ban Ki-moon, here.

  In fact, Inner City Press took and tweeted  the photo as Hilale and his team gathered in the Turkish Lounge outside the Security Council during one of this week's closed door consultations, on March 21. Notably, the Moroccan publication not only uses the Inner City Press photo without credit - it claims credit itself.

  At this same UN Security Council on March 24 UN Correspondents Association boss Giampaolo Pioli repeatedly and loudly told Inner City Press "You are an asshole.Sample audio here. Since then another sample pro-Moroccan troll has snarked, "Maybe you are;" @InnerCityPress replied that Hilale for example never said it. We'll have more on this.

Why didn't UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon go to El Aaiun in Western Sahara, even to visit the headquarters of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara?  And why on March 21 did Ban say, "We had a good meeting in the Security Council today" when his deputyspokesperson Farhan Haq told Inner City Press it was fine it was excluded between there were no Secretariat staff involved? Who is Ban's "we"?

  On March 24, after three hours of consultations, the UN Security Council emerged with so-called "Press Elements" read by the Council's President for March, Angola's Ambassador Gaspar Martins. Periscope video here. Fast transcript by here.

  After these Elements were read out, Inner City Press asked if they meant all15 members would like to see MINURSO returned to Western Sahara, and if some thought Ban Ki-moon should, as demanded, apologize. Inner City Press also asked about Morocco's foreign minister's comment that the country's recent moves are "irreversible."

  Still later, while UN minders were telling Inner City Press it had to leave the second floor even as other UN correspondents on UNCA's board remained doing interviews, Inner City Press managed to get a read-out, that in the Security Council consultations members had not been sure of, or agreed on, what Morocco's minister had said, and so would have to meet again soon. Watch this site.

Strangely, while Ban's Secretariat saying it is strongly opposing Morocco's note verbale it civilian staff leave "the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco," on March 23 to Reuters and AFP it was an anonymous UN official who made the argument.

On March 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about this incongruity: why ostensibly speak truth to (Moroccan) power... anonymously?

 Instead of explaining, Haq said to Inner City Press, For a journalist you seem to have a problem with officials speaking to the media. Well, no: why only to pro-Ladsous scribes, and anonymously? Inner City Press asked if Herve Ladsous as head of UN Peacekeeping will finally hold a press conference, which it seems he hasn't since September 11, 2015 when on camera he linked peacekeeper rapes to "R&R." Haq did not respond.

 (On Reuters and AFP and anonimity, it's ironic: both were linked to anti-Press anonymous troll society media accounts, here; now it seemsVoice of America has joined them.)

 As the UN Security Council had another round of closed door consultations about MINURSO on March 23, Inner City Press' sources tell it that a mild draft Press Statement is being "shot down" by Egypt, for the Arab Group or League - with France once again able to hide its imminent veto on the issue.

 As to Spain, whose foreign ministry has yet to answer - and in full disclosure whose highest UN official Cristina Gallach ordered Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours' notice and it still trying to seize its office, restrict its ability even to cover the Security Council on Western Sahara, video here -- sources says it is "blackmailed."

 What does that mean? Morocco can turn on migration, act on the small territories, has many Spanish companies on its territory and at sea. "Unless a larger power tells Spain to be decisive on this, Spain will just drivft," was the verdict. We await the ministry's comment.

Cristina Gallach, with Qatar's ex-PR, Spain sign, credit UN Photo/Evan Schneider

  UN DPKO boss Herve Ladsous went into the Security Council on the afternoon of March 23 without a word or answer. On his way out at 4:30 pm, Inner City Press asked him, Any progress on MINURSO? No answer. Any response to the Tony Banbury op-ed? One in his entourage laughed. Would retaliation follow? For Inner City Press, it already has. Watch this site.