By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- Accountability, or really UN-accountability, was the topic when the UN Fifth (Budget) Committee met on March 8, amid a major bribery scandal and the continuing shame of UN Peacekeeper rapes in the Central African Republic and elsewhere.
Thailand's Sirithon Wairatpanij for the Group of 77 and China said "the Group emphasizes its full support on the zero-tolerance approach for all fraudulent acts."
Switzerland was more specific, saying that "in light of recent events, most notably the alleged bribery of the former President of the General Assembly, we believe that it is important to renew the Organization’s commitment to a zero-tolerance approach towards fraudulent acts."
But is the scandal just about the former PGA John Ashe? He and Ng Lap Seng, including through Frank Lorenzo's South South News and Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation, bought documents from Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat, for example the "reissued for technical reasons" switch to the GA document about a South South center in Macau.
Zero tolerance? The person who made just this switch has yet to be identified. It's like the UN's supposed zero-tolerance for sexual abuse, while UN Peacekeeping chief links rapes to "R&R."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on February 9, when asked by Inner City Press how now-indicted Frank Lorenzo came to use and have his photo taken in the UN Press Briefing Room on September 8, 2011 while it never appeared in the UN Media Alert, simply refused to answer. Video here.
“I'm done answering questions,” Dujarric said, cutting Inner City Press off and calling on Voice of America's correspondent (see previous correspondence here) for an unrelated, mere scheduling question.
On February 19, moments after Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric about UN cover-ups in South Sudan, lack of transparency on Burundi and financial mismanagement -- its UN identification pass was flagged as "deactivated" and would not open the gate to access the UN Security Council stakeout.
Then Inner City Press was given two hours to leave by USG Cristina Gallach, was thrown out into First Avenue by UN Security, and Banned from all UN premises.
After two lawyer's letters, a petition and more, Inner City Press re-entered on February 25 with unfairly reduced access and asked Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: Can you say now when the… the… the long-delayed OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] audit of the contacts between Ng Lap Seng, Frank Lorenzo, Global Sustainability Foundation and Sun Kian Ip Foundation and UN-affiliated entities will be completed?
Spokesman: My understanding on the OIOS investigation on this… in the Secretariat should be ready next month.
Inner City Press back on February 10 asked Dujarric what questions it is, what he and the UN will not answer. Video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I'm trying to figure out what questions will be answered and which ones won't be answered. So, I'm going to preface this in an entirely different way. As you know, Frank Lorenzo has been indicted. The allegation is that his South-South News funneled money and was part of a bribery conspiracy at the UN. There is a photograph of the Secretary-General receiving from Mr. Frank Lorenzo an award statue in October 2011 after an event [in the UN Press Briefing Room, not on the UN Media Alert.] Either, do you have any comment or, logistically, is there any thinking within the Secretariat of what should be done with gifts given by this now controversial organization, part of the indictment?
Spokesman Dujarric: As you know, we are conducting an audit of the relationship between a number of those people who were named in the indictments and UN entities. That is ongoing. Hopefully, it should be finished soon, and we'll see where that leads us. Okay.
We'll have more on this.
Lorenzo is a major figure in the corruption scandal surrounding the UN under Ban Ki-moon, along with former President of the General Assembly John Ashe and Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng, who after funneling money the UN Correspondents Association (including through Lorenzo's South South News) got a photo op with Ban at an UNCA event at Cipriani.
So how can Dujarric, the spokesman, simply refuse to answer factual questions about how Lorenzo gained access to the UN Press Briefing Room without being listed in the UN Media Alert, to which Dujarric begrudgingly referred Inner City Press on February 8? How has the UN sunk this low?
The UN still won't provide a simple list of when and to whom it “lent” the UN Press Briefing Room, from the “reservation” Spokesman Dujarric gave to the entourage of French President Hollande on September 23, 2014 until his murky “lending” of the UN Press Briefing Room to UNCA on January 29, 2016 and subsequent ejection of Inner City Press.
On February 8, Inner City Press asked Dujarric for the list of times he or his Office have “lent” out the UN Press Briefing Room, since he said on February 1 that “who gets to use this room is really my decision.”
But Dujarric refused to provide the list, instead telling Inner City Press that a list of “public” uses of the room could be compiled from UN MALU (Media Accreditation and Liasion Unit) Media Alerts. Video here.
Inner City Press asked Dujarric why he participated in the September 23, 2014 event by French President Francois Hollande from which Inner City Press was asked to leave, video here -- Dujarric did not answer this, more on this to come -- and about one sample use of the Press Briefing Room.
Frank Lorenzo, now indicted for bribery at the UN and found not to be immune, was for example in the UN Press Briefing Room on September 8, 2011, about the South South Awards / South South News, funded by also indicted Ng Lap Seng and a funder of the UN Correspondents Association.
Dujarric said go look at the MALU Media Alerts. But digging up the MALU Media Alert for September 8, 2011, there was NO mention or Lorenzo or South South News or Awards. Dujarric's answer, even by its own terms, doesn't hold water. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.
On February 5 Inner City Press asked Dujarric's Deputy Farhan Haq about the ruling in the UN corruption cases that Frank Lorenzo is NOT immune. (John Ashe is also claiming immunity.) Inner City Press asked Haq if the UN Press Briefing Room, already “lent” to another fundee of indicted Ng Lap Seng, UNCA, was ever lent to Lorenzo. Video here.
Haq replied, again without checking, that “if” Lorenzo had ever been in the UN Press Briefing Room, it would have been as Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic. But Lorenzo also led Ng-funded “South South News,” which gave money to UNCA; the indictment and ruling are based on things Lorenzo is described as doing NOT in his official capacity as DPR of the Dominican Republic. We'll have more on this.
For now, here is a photo of now non-immune Lorenzo with Ban Ki-moon, with another employee and banner of the South South Awards. It is UNacceptable that the UN, Dujarric's and Haq's Office, have refused to provide basic information upon request. So much for transparency. See the February 5 UN transcript.
UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq on February 4 instead of even purporting to answer Inner City Press' questions openly guessed at the motivation of the questions. Vine here, full video here. The question concerned Ng Lap seng, indicted for bribery at the UN; Haq said if you can look into corruption at the UN Correspondents Association (a Ng fundee who was lent the room on January 29), go do so.
But the UN has said it is auditing Ng's and Sheri Yan's dealings with and at the UN, which must include UNCA, which is given a large UN room, and the Press Briefing Room too, off the record sit-downs with Ban Ki-moon (two of whose closest associates were at the founding of Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation), and sells seats with Ban for $6,000.
Haq refused to answer. Inner City Press aksed, When does Stephane [Dujarric, the lead spokesman who said who gets to use the Press Briefing Room is really his decision] get back? "Whenever he wants," Haq said. This is today's UN. We'll have more on this.
On February 3, Inner City Press for the second day in a row asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq to provide a list of to whom his office, or simply lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, “lent” the UN Press Briefing Room. Haq on February 3 now said there is no list, but they have the information.
So Inner City Press asked a question about the information: has the UN Press Briefing Room been “lent” to any affiliate or fundee of Ng Lap Seng or the Global Sustainability Foundation, named in the US Attorney's corruption indictment.
Haq said, “No.” But since the UN Press Briefing Room was, Dujarric said, “lent to UNCA” on January 29, and UNCA has taken funds from Ng Lap Seng's entities, Inner City Press asked Haq if he was sure.
Haq insisted that money is not asked for to lend the UN Press Briefing Room. But that was not the question: has it been lent to a grantee of Ng Lap Seng.
As Inner City Press was still asking, Reuters' UN correspondent Michelle Nichols, holding Reuters' apparently Permanent seat on the UNCA board, cut in, saying “You're clutching at straws.” Video here
Inner City Press was not asking Reuters any question. On February 2, the former Reuters UN bureau chief cut in, as did the Agence France Presse correspondent Carole Landry (who is also on UNCA's board). We'll have more on this.
Dujarric didn't show up at the February 2 noon briefing, so Inner City Press had to ask his Deputy, Farhan Haq. The UNCA representative, Reuters retiree Evelyn Leopold, immediately tried to cut off the question with a loud, “Here we go again.” (This was echoed afterward by Carole Landry the English language correspondent of Agence France Presse, silent when the UN Press Briefing Room was given over to Hollande and others were asked to leave). Here's Periscope of the glass box the AFP scribe "reports" Inner City Press was "hidden" in; here's February 2 video:
This shows why there should be a UN Freedom of Information Act, something which while requested by the Free UN Coalition for AccessBan Ki-moon has tellingly done nothing about during his opaque tenure.
Instead of providing this basic information, Haq claimed Inner City Press is “mudding the waters” of having covered the January 29 meeting of UNCA, including about this group's offering of space in the UN to those who pay it money, from an entirely visible, glassed in box, from which Inner City Press live-tweeted and live-streamed Periscope video.Here's saved Periscope video of what this “hiding place” looks like.
We'll have more on this - and will continue to pursue the list of UN privatization of the Press Briefing Room. Watch this site.
But UN Spokesman Stepane Dujarric on February 1, when Inner City Press asked him under what rule he had given over the UN Press Briefing Room to the UNCA groups which charged $6,000 to sit with Ban, said “who gets to use this room is really my decision.” Vine here.
Really? The use of the UN Press Briefing Room is decided, without any rules, by this one individual? The same individual who often dodges Inner City Press' questions by saying “It's up to member states”?
But there are other problems here. After Dujarric previously lent the UN Press Briefing Room on September 23, 2014 to the entourage of the president of Dujarric's native France Francois Hollande, video here, it was then indicated that it wouldn't happen again.
Then on September 25, 2014 when Inner City Press asked Dujarric “please state which countries during this UNGA have used the UN Press Briefing Room for briefing not open to all UN correspondents, other than France at 11 am on September 23. (Also, what was your role on September 23 around 11 am in the room behind the Press Briefing Room podium?)”
Dujarric replied, in writing, “I dont have the information on the first point for you. On the second, I'm not sure that I understand it except that I was just looking into the room. I tend to be a curious person.”
Dujarric “didn't have the information” on private use of the UN Press Briefing Room, which use he says “is really my decision”? We'll have more on this.
On Wall Street in December 2015, the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) sold seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6,000 ($12,000 for a full table). Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric how this could be and was first told, As long as it's transparent.
UNCA previously took money from Macau-based casino magnate Ng Lap Seng, now under house arrest for bribery at the UN, and gave him a photo op with Ban. Now the UN or at least Dujarric gave this UNCA, now the UN Corruption Association, its UN Press Briefing Room -- and on January 29 threw out the Press seeking to cover this meeting of a group that has sold the UN and Ban, amid scandals.
On February 1, Inner City Press went to the next UN noon briefing to asked Dujarric what the rules for throwing media out of the UN Press Briefing Room are, and to explain his poking at Inner City Press' phone to stop its Periscope streaming broadcast of the event in the UN Press Briefing Room, video here, transcript here.
Dujarric cut off questions, including about his "lending" of the UN Briefing Room to the entourage of France's Francois Hollande - which will continue. In fact, the UN omitted or censored Inner City Press' entirely audible question about Hollande from the transcript. Dujarric made a threat. This is today's UN.
(This Periscope video show how non-hidden this box is.)
Sitting in a glassed in booth live-tweeting and livestreaming Periscope video cannot be called "hiding," even in the UN.
Inner City Press pointed out the obvious: this booth is entirely glassed in and visible from the podium he spoke at, and from the rostrum used on January 29 by UNCA's head Giampaolo Pioli and two board members (one from US government Broadcasting Board of Governors, as is relevant to the censorship bid contrary to the US First Amendment.)
Dujarric cut off Inner City Press' follow up question; uniquely the entire first row of the briefing room was this day filled with UNCA board members, two from Agence France Presse (they asked nothing), and Pioli, who also asked nothing. One wondered if Dujarric, who on January 29 told Inner City Press it should "join UNCA" arranged or collaborated with this dubious "show of force."
At least, unlike January 29, Dujarric did not jab at Inner City Press' camera, and the Reuters correspondent who twice blocked the camera with paper on January 29 did not do so this time.
One is left wondering if the UN's Dujarric believes he can eject any media, at any time, from any event in the UN Press Briefing Room, and if he, Reuters or UNCA will try the same camera-banning they engaged in on January 29 in the UN Press Briefing Room at the UN Security Council stakeout. Watch this site.
At the January 29 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about Ban's paid / sold appearances, transcript here.
On January 29, UNCA leadership including Giampaoli Pioli, two scribes for the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, one from Reuters and others demanded that Inner City Press not cover a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room.
Suspending their meeting in which they discussed among other tawdry topics selling UN space to those who pay them money, UNCA called in UN Spokesman Dujarric and his deputy and then UN Security, who are the request of Dujarric asked Inner City Press to leave.
There were ironies aplenty. Not only about a group of "correspondents" trying to close and make secret their meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room, but also that it was Dujarric who told Inner City Press that the UN Press Briefing Room would not again be "lent out," after Inner City Press challenged the lending out to French President Francois Hollande.
Dujarric, deploying the F-bomb, Vine here, told Inner City Press, Yes, I am ordering you out, you can put it in your story. Vine here. He tried to turn Inner City Press' camera phone off. Vine here.
His deputy, pointing at Inner City Press, told some of the scribes, "He lies a lot" -- after providing patently false answers about UN peacekeeping and other topics.
The Voice of America correspondent Margaret Besheer, last seenclaiming there were Liberians in Burundi, to which in an untransparent process she (and Reuters and AFP) accompanied the recent Security Council trip, made comments which most contexts are deemed antithetical to free press. She's done it before (see this letter to Dujarric); she said "go on your meds."
Pioli, landland to Sri Lanka's ambassador who then gave him an UNCA / "UN" screening to that country's war crimes denial film, insisted that to stand up for the right to cover meetings in the UN Press Briefing Room one must be crazy. He never asks questions: he's a landlord. See here.
Here's more to be said, but for now, here is the video.
With the UN embroiled in scandals including the indictments of the former President of the General Assembly John Ashe and Macau businessman Ng Lap Seng and the founder of South South News, on December 14 the UN Correspondents Association sold seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6000. Periscope I here; Periscope II here.
UN corruption, never reformed, rises from the Ashes, courtesy of UNCA, now the UN Corruption Association.
And yet, from inside Cipriani Wall Street, one of the musicians paid to play has an open mind, and when shown reporting on UN corruption asks, Should I make a scene? Tweet here.
Just ask, who here paid $6000 as solicited by UNCA to sit with Ban Ki-moon. And why pay it? With Ng Lap Seng, it's clear.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Ban supports journalists. But the UNCA he's supporting tries to get them out of the UN. RSF did good work of late. But willful blindness does not help journalists.
The bureau chief of Voice of America, who previously tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN after it reported on UNCA corruption, the boss Giampaolo Pioli renting one of his apartments to Sri Lanka's ambassador then screening his war crimes denial film in the UN, this time seemed to give the finger, flip the bird to the press. Ah, journalism.
Is it journalism to solicit and take money from those you ostensibly cover? Where does it go? We'll have more on this.
Earlier on December 14 UNCA lobbed three softball questions to Ban -- none on Burundi, for example -- from the former president of UNCA Pamela Falk, then the current vice president and finally the current questioner for UNCA. Inner City Press loudly asked a question about the killings in Burundi, which Ban declined to answer. Vine here.
Inner City Press for the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the propriety of UNCA selling seats with Ban. Dujarric said, "As long as it's transparent." Is that the standard?
One would expect the UN press corps, even the entity the UN itself chooses to set aside first questions for, to be pursuing rather than be involved in the scandals.
One might also expect UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to be more cautious of colluding in events in which access to him has been sold.
But with the UN Correspondents Association, this year more than ever, that is not the case. The group or its leadership, headed by Italian paparazzi scribe Giampaolo Pioli who after trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN now covers actors like Morgan Freeman while others at his paper cover the UN, is selling seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6,000.
In response to Press questions about this UNseemly sale of access, Ban's spokesman said "as long as it's transparent." Will that keep the indictments from expanding?
Inner City Press on December 11 spoke with indictee Frank Lorenzo,pictured here with Ban Ki-moon, as written up by "Italian News."
This year's sale of Ban, like to Ng Lap Seng in 2011, is an Italian job, run by pazarazzi / "correspondent" / landlord Giampaolo Pioli.
How does this UNCA sleaze fest differ from the South South Awards, inextricably linked to the indictments of Ng Lap Seng, South South News' Frank Lorenzo and former President of the General Assembly John Ashe? Hardly at all. So what will happen? We'll have more on this.
Here is a photo of Ban Ki-moon at South South Awards with several indictees, here.
For now we can report that at the December 11 closed door session on "Revitalization of the General Assembly," both the UN's Controller and Ban Ki-moon's new chief of staff Edmond Mulet made arguments for post-Ashe reforms that a number of member states found far too little. And Ban is slated to have seats next to him sold for $6000. We'll have more on this too.
On December 10, days after Pioli used the large room the UN gives to UNCA, its UN Censorship Alliance, to campaign for a Security Council seat for his native Italy by giving out free meats, the view into the Club was blocked. So much for transparency.
While calling for an audit of sale of UN access under John Ashe, should Ban openly allow access to him to be sold? He appears intent on doing so, or operating by inertia, on automatic pilot. Inner City Press now learns that Ban's twice delayed report on the cover up of peacekeepers' rapes in the Central African Republic will be pushed further back, after the sell-out, buried. We'll have more on this.
UNCA's awards, such as they gave to South South News for money, include awards and payments to entities who've served on their own Board.
In 2011 under then (and now) president Giampaolo Pioli, UNCA took money from the South South News of now-indicted Ng Lap Seng, then gave South South News an UNCA award and gave Ng Lap Seng a photo op with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Now in November 2015, Pioli has solicited $6000 from UN Ambassadors for seats at the “VIP” table at the UNCA “Ball” on Wall Street: to sit with Ban Ki-moon. Here is UNCA's pitch:
The United Nations Correspondents Association is honored to invite you to participate and contribute to the 20th annual UNCA Awards event with guest of honor U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, recipient of the 2015 Global Advocate of the Year Award for climate change. Exclusive raffle prizes include business class airline tickets around the world with hotel accommodations and a grand prize FIAT 500X car. As your esteemed presence will ensure the success of this event, we are pleased to send you the below opportunities to attend the gala dinner:
Mission Table Special Price / $6000 (half-table) 5 seats at VIP table at the gala event
Special Ambassador Contribution / $2,000 -1 VIP ticket for Ambassador with premium seating to dinner + 1 complimentary VIP ticket for spouse or guest -Special acknowledgement of the Ambassador and the Mission in the UNCA Awards Journal of the evening -Additional tickets for UN Diplomats of the Mission can be purchased at the special price of $750 each
Giampaolo Pioli, UNCA President
Please make all checks payable to 'UNCA Awards Committee'
Contributions to the UNCA Awards Committee are tax deductible.
The UNCA Awards Committee is a 501-c(3)"
This is precisely the type of sale of access involved in the indictments of Ng, Sheri Yan and Frank Lorenzo.
While others are announcing audits and freezing such contacts, UNCA under Pioli is bulling forward, charging ever more money, getting ever further from journalistic purposes.
On November 20, Pioli's UNCA circulated a list of candidates with no competition for any of the six officer positions. It also pre-announced its awards, including to Reuters (on its Board) and others. We'll have more on this.
For the three running unopposed for five president slots, two were already on the UNCA board during the relevant time period; the other isPioli's former protege at Quotidiano Nazionale. It's an Italian thing.
Running for Treasurer? It's Agence France Presse, whose previous correspondent tried to use a position on the UNCA board to censor Press coverage of Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping.
Reuters is in the mix, too, and another which joined Pioli in trying to censor coverage of Pioli unilaterally approving a Sri Lankan government war crimes denial film for a “UN” screening, after Pioli rented one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN. This is UN. But amid the new scandals at the UN, this is something new: watch this site.
Footnote: Inner City Press after Pioli's and others censorship bid, and attempt to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN (uncovered along with documents still to be published by a Freedom of Information Act request, here, and questioned by the New York Civil Liberties Union), quit the UNCA board and co-founded, with another who'd quit UNCA as corrupt, the Free UN Coalition for Access.
FUNCA does not seek any automatic first questions, but opposes the UN setting aside first questions for an entity which, as now shown, isenmeshed in the very UN scandals that must be asked about. Watch this site.