By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- The decision to throw Inner City Press out of the UN on February 19, on only two hours notice, was made by Spain's highest UN official, Under Secretary General of Public Information Cristina Gallach.Audio here.
With seeming disdain for due process, Gallach never once spoke to Inner City Press before signing the letter to throw it out, to hear its explanation of why it sought to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room three weeks earlier onJanuary 29.
After now setting in a second letter a final eviction date, April 6, Gallach has twice approached Inner City Press in the stakeout area to which it is confined. March 30 video / audio here; March 31 audio here. On March 30 she told Inner City Press it photographs things that are not newsworthy. On March 31 she declined to take seriously the targeted censorship she has unleashed.
We have previously -- after the no due process ouster -- covered how Gallach was given the job by Ban Ki-moon. Since then more information has come in from her native Spain, beyond expressing outrage at Gallach's censorship of Inner City Press' coverage of Western Sahara, to the point of Banning it from Security Council meetings as on March 21and requiring minders as on March 24.
Gallach's claim to fame, such as it is, was as spokesperson for Javier Solana; she re-tweets Solana still. We'll have more on that tenure -- but what Spanish sources are detailing is Gallach's previously thwarted desire for a UN post.
Spain threw money at UN Women; Gallach wanted a post there. But there was Bibiana Aido -- Inner City Pressinterviewed Aido at the UN in 2009, here -- and then there was resentment, including about who had better familial connection to Zapatero.
Other sources speak of retaliation for critical Press coverage of Spanish official Bernardino Leon's sell-out to the United Arab Emirates, alongside the David Ng Lap Seng / South South scandal in which Gallach plays a role, on which Inner City Press questioned her before her no due process, no recusal ouster and eviction orders. We'll have more on all this.
It is telling that Spanish "UN" official Bernardino Leon's outrageous sell-out of the UN resulted in no punishment or even criticism from Ban Ki-moon, while the Press which aggressively covered it is being evicted by Spain's highest UN official.
After throwing Inner City Press in the street on February 19 without once asking it about its attempt to cover the January 29 event in the UN Press Briefing Room, Gallach first dissembled to Nobel Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta, that she'd done nothing to Inner City Press - then came up with a new strategy.
Gallach would try to use Inner City Press' fight back against being censored as the rationale for what she had done.
Inner City Press, even after being forcibly thrown out of the UN on Gallach's orders on February 19, and being told it was Banned from all UN premises on February 22, tried to speak with her on the evening of February 22. With witnesses present, Inner City Press urged a creative solution, with flexibility on both sides.
But there was none.
Now, Gallach is telling her interlocutors that it is Inner City Press' fight-back since, including tweets, that justifies what she did before Inner City Press issues a single tweet mentioning her.
This is Kafka-esque, and it is censorship. This should NOT be atop the UN Department of Public Information.
Gallach followed and fed an anonymous troll twitter account which more than 150 times parroted her position. But she is not responsible for it? This is the face of UN censorship.
How was such a decision, contrary to due process and press freedom, made by the UN's communication chief? How did she get this job?
When Spain put Gallach's name in contention for the USG DPI position, Inner City Press reported on her and two other short-list candidates, then acting chief Maher Nasser of Palestine and Romania's Permanent Representative Simona Miculescu.
At the time, many said Nasser was the most qualified. But because Saudi Arabia put forward its Deputy Permanent Representative and used the muscle it is showing on Yemen, Iran and now Lebanon to demand support, Nasser was not about to get the support of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) or the Arab Group.
But many said Gallach was the worst interview, and had the least experience. They say - and Inner City Press has a question pending to confirm or deny - that prior to Spain putting Gallach forward to run the UN Department of Public Information with some 700 staff, the largest team Gallach had run had consisted of one-hundredth of that, more like SEVEN people.
In most organization, such a person would never get the job. But this is the UN. Spain was about to take a two-year seat on the Security Council, and the Ban Ki-moon administration has a pattern of doling out high jobs to some of the countries coming on to the Council (less so the African countries), as a way of getting support for proposals it will have before the Council.
And so Gallach, described as underprepared and the “worst interview” of all the candidates, was given the job by Ban Ki-moon. Miculescu was given a consolation prize with the UN in Serbia. Nasser stayed on as a deputy to Gallach, seemingly not consulted even when Gallach, on February 19, decided to have a long time UN journalist thrown to the curb, on two hours notice.
Prior to that - and separately requiring Gallach's recusal - Inner City Press had accurately reported the Gallach hobnobbed at the "South South Awards" with Frank Lorenzo, photo here, just before he was indicted for bribery at the UN.
This is why senior UN officials telling Inner City Press to "stay in touch with Cristina Gallach on this matter. She will keep me informed" is both Kafka-esque and indicative of the UN's inability to clean up or even look into corruption.
There are a number of connections between those indicted for bribery and DPI and its partner in this, the UN Correspondents Association who event in the UN Press Briefing Room Inner City Press was seeking to cover on January 29, on corruption related issues: how indicted Ng Lap Seng was given a photo op with Ban Ki-moon by UNCA, after UNCA took money from Ng's South South News. This has yet to be answered either.
Or perhaps the ouster is the answer.
When Ban Ki-moon imposed his most recent budget cuts, the Department hardest hit was Gallach's DPI. Staff complained she didn't fight for them; those to whom she made presentations in the UN's budget process called her woefully unprepared, “a joke,” one of them said.
But to throw an investigative journalist into the street, without even coat or passport, to refuse to reconsider it even when contacted as Gallach was by such people as Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta (she dissembled to him), a range of Ambassadors and even, privately andpublicly, by the President of the Security Council, is not a joke at all.
When Business Insider wrote about the ouster, published on February 26, Gallach couldn't (be bothered) to give a quote: an unnamed DPI spokesperson said it was fine to throw out Inner City Press without even speaking with it or allowing an opportunity to be heard:
“When contacted for comment, the Office of the Undersecretary General for Communications and Public Information did not deny that Lee had never been questioned over the incident before his pass was revoked. 'In conducting its investigation into the incident on 29 January, [Department of Public Information] reviewed several videos of what happened, including footage that was taken by Mr. Lee and posted on his website,' a representative of the office wrote in an email to Business Insider. 'DPI also spoke at length with the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and officers from the UN Department of Safety and Security who were in attendance on 29 January. These steps were sufficient to determine that Mr. Lee's actions clearly infringed the guidelines that apply to all correspondents at the United Nations.'”
Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this quote; he has yet to answer. In writing, Inner City Press has asked both Dujarric and Gallach about this: but questions submitted back on February 20 have yet to be answered.