Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lax Coverage of Ban Ki-moon's Task Force Ignores Ban's Role, South South News

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- The UN's unwillingness to address the obvious corruption of South South News, to which it has given awards and Ban Ki-moon photo ops via its UN Correspondents Association, and whose Ng Lap Seng bought documents from Ban's Secretariat, became even more clear on March 29 -- though not in the UN's favored media.

  Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric read out a statement that Ban's “Task Force” report on corruption had been circulated, limited to structural flaws in the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

  Inner City Press, facing eviction from the UN for seeking to cover an event by one of Ng's and South South News' fundees, UNCA, in the UN Press Briefing Room, immediately asked why Ban wasn't studying corruption in his own Secretariat. Video here.

  Dujarric said there are two audits on that - but then despite having said the audits would be public in March, said he “thought” they would be withheld for some weeks more. This factoid made it into some stories, without context.

 But mostly, the wire services portrayed the UN corruption scandal as only about the PGA's office, although the criminal complaint shows Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat falsifying documents for the Macau conference center.

AFP, for example, reports that "The damaging scandal prompted Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a task force that would make recommendations for improving transparency." AFP does not say that the three member Task Force including Ban's chief of staff and Ban's personal lawyer Miguel de Serpa Soares, for whom to find that Ban's Secretariat was involved in corrupt would violate his duty as Ban's lawyer.

 Even worse, while Reuters mentions Vivian Wang being indicted, it does NOT mention she was Vice President of South South News which has given money, and gotten Ng Lap Seng a photo with Ban through, the UN Correspondents Association on whose executive committee Reuters has a permanent seat, for years.

Is this a conflict of interest in reporting?

In full disclosure, Reuters' UN bureau chief has previously asked Stephane Dujarric, now Ban's spokesman, to throw Inner City Press out of the UN,document hereattempt to censor, here.

And AFP, albeit its former correspondent, also tried to get Inner City Press, FOIA document here; AFP still holds a seat on the executive committee of UNCA, which has lobbied UN official Cristina Gallach to oust Inner City Press from its office.

  Inner City Press asked current PGA Mogens Lykketoft's spokesperson Dan Thomas if Lykketoft could just order the audits released. Thomas said he doesn't have the audits - which is strange.

  Or not. When Inner City Press got a copy of Ban's report, it found from Footnote 1 that among the three members of the Task Force were Ban's chief of staff Edmond Mulet and Ban's personal lawyer, Miguel de Serpa Soares (who in full disclosure on March 28 issued a threat of imminent eviction to Inner City Press,here.)

  Of course such a Task Force of Friends would not find any problem with Ban's own conduct. But Ban took the photo op with Ng; his spouse and his senior adviser Vijay Nambiar attended the founding of Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation. Nothing from Ban's Task Force Friends on that.

  Instead there are proposal such as that perhaps PGAs should make financial disclosure. But most of Ban's senior officials do not make even their rudmentary financial disclosure forms public.

   Ban claim to be for transparency, but allows this, then picks his friends to study corruption.

  Ban though Dujarric claims to be for free press, while his Under Secretary General for Communications Cristina Gallach threw the Press out into the street on two hours notice with no due process, and his lawyer Serpa Soares, after self-servingly clearing Ban of corruption issued a treat of eviction to Inner City Press citing immunity. Impunity, indeed. We'll have more - watch this site.

From the UN's March 29 transcript:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you about, about the announcement you made at the top about the John Ashe/Frank Lorenzo/Sheri Yan… you called it the John Ashe case, but it's obviously a series of indictments.

Spokesman:  I mean, I didn't call… I just used John Ashe as a point of reference and I said John Ashe and others.

Inner City Press:  What I want to ask about is the Secretariat itself.  It seems like this task force, the way you've presented it, is entirely about flaws in the structure of the PGA's office.  But, as I'm sure you know, in the criminal complaint, there's a number of portions where it talks about bribery or misdoings by UN Secretariat officials.  In paragraph 40, it talks about a DGCAM official…

Spokesman Dujarric:  I'm well aware of the complaint.

Inner City Press: yesterday, you'd said nobody knew that South-South News and David Ng were problematic.  And since then I've learned that there's a memo by Éric Falt, then D-2 of DPI, about David Ng.  I'd also like to show you this.  This was an ad taken by David Ng South-South News after which Ban Ki-moon did a photo op with David Ng.  So I wanted to know, what is Ban-Ki… how is it possible that if documents existed in the UN system contemporaneous with Ban Ki-moon's interaction with a now indicted David Ng or Ng Lap Seng that it took place, and what does it say about weaknesses of the Secretariat, and who is going to do a report on that?

Spokesman:  There is an audit of… that is ongoing of the relationship with David Ng and his various NGOs.  That audit has been done.  It is available for Member States to be shared.  And according to OIOS' existing rules and regulations, it will be made public, I think, within a couple of weeks.  From that, we will see where that goes on. Again, not to beat old horses with whatever one beats old horses with, but it was not a… there was no official photo op with the Secretary-General and the gentleman you mentioned.  He obviously came up to the Secretary-General, took a photo.

Inner City Press:  It was taken upstairs at Cipriani.  I have video

Spokesman:  I understand.  You and I have different views.

Question:  No, different view of a video?  I just have one question, because it seems like Ban Ki-moon has done a report on another part of the UN system…

Spokesman:  Matthew, I think I just answered your question.

Inner City Press:  You didn't.  There's an audit…

Spokesman:  An audit has been done.  It's done.  Member States…

Inner City Press:  There's an audit as opposed to a report.  I'm just asking.  Finish, please.

Spokesman:  Okay.  It's an audit.  It's available with Member States.  If further investigations need to be done following that audit, they will be done.  What the Secretary-General's task force examined, in fact, and it talked to, I think, almost all, a whole number of, as you will read it yourself in the report, a number of former Presidents of the General Assembly.  It's about structural issues and the weaknesses of the Office as they then existed.

Inner City Press:  But, are you saying there's no structural weaknesses…?

Spokesman:  I will come…

Inner City Press:  …Secretariat?

Spokesman:  As I said, there is an audit, and whatever else needs to be done afterwards, it will be done.  Mr. Reuters.

Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  I wanted to follow up on Benny's question.  It sounds like with these… you've had several statements about the use of the word "occupation".

O. As Inner City Press was staking out the UN Security Council meeting on March 24 about Western Sahara and Morocco's ordering out of the UN Peacekeeping mission there, a figure rarely seen at the stakeout approached.

  Giampaolo Pioli the head of the UN Correspondents Association came over to where Inner City Press was typing and editing audio and video and said, “You're an asshole.”

   Moments later, Inner City Press now with its UN accreditation pass downgraded to Non-Resident Correspondent by UN Department of Public Information chief Cristina Gallach at the behest of Pioli went to ask UN Security not to lock the glass door to the Security Council before the Council's president spoke at the stakeout.

  As Inner City Press asked the guard not to lock the door to journalists, UNCA's Pioli again said, “You're an asshole. I'm telling you that you're an asshole. Quote me.” Audio here.

   What's behind this? How did a journalists club turn into a club against a journalist, and why? Beyond Pioli's financial relationship with Palitha Kohona, who as Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Pioli unilaterally granted a "UN" screening of a war crimes denial film, there is for example the matter of South South News.

  South South News is depicted in the October 2015 criminal complaint against John Ashe, Ng Lap Seng, Frank Lorenzo and others as a vehicle for bribery, to the tune of $12 million.

  UNCA under Pioli took SSN's money, and gave its funding Ng Lap Sent a photo op with Ban Ki-moon. But Pioli's UNCA also gave South South News a "journalism award," and SSN in term featured videos of Pioli, here - and of Pioli's tenant Kohona, here.

SSN video at 0:29 features Lorenzo (guilty plea) and Wang (indicted)

   John Ashe's former spokesperson is a member of UNCA; a SSN anchor, too. These are among the reasons that Inner City Press sought -- facing retaliation - and seeks and will continue to seek to cover this corrupted organization, as part of the wider and expanding UN corruption scandal. Watch this site.

Pioli and his rental of one of his apartments to an accused war criminal, involved in Sri Lanka's notorious White Flag killings, then screening of his tenant's film, played a key role.

But there have been many enablers, among the Gulf and Western media on UNCA's board; there are been others to the very top of the UN who have benefited from and left unchecked this war on investigative journalism.

This as Pioli's UNCA took money from now-indicted Ng Lap Seng's South South News, gave SSN a journalism award and Ng a photo op with Ban Ki-moon. After after the indictments, Pioli was selling half-tables with Ban for $6,000 on Wall Street in December 2015. That Ban's UN tries to shield this from coverage is telling.

  To try to oust or wipe out coverage of failure in Sri Lanka and more recently Burundi and Yemen to name but two is, of course, convenient, as well as stopping or hindering aggressive coverage of the expanding UN scandal in this waning year.

  Inner City Press spoke and speaks out when Reuters took stories without credit, even claimed "exclusives" for things earlier published by Inner City Press. Reuters bureau chief made an anti-Press filing with the UN's Stephane Dujarric. Then when it was leaked, he wrote as Reuters to Google to get it blocked from Search, ostensibly as copyrighted. "His" reporter has been worse, in ways.

   Margaret Besheer of Voice of America, who after being exposed in 2012 and her bosses saying in writing their attempt to oust Inner City Press for her was wrong -- is at it again.  She was standing pre-positioned at the UN gate on February 19, 2016 when Inner City Press was physically thrown out. These are tax dollars at work, violating the First Amendment.

  There are more - former AFP, the current ones hardly better - and others who just follow along. Now their "leader" Pioli has come to the stakeout, not to report anything - he rarely does - but to loudly call a critic, who actually writes stories, an "asshole." And not one of them did anything. At the UN the journalists' club has become a club against a journalist.

Photo of Pioli at UNCA Ball, credit UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
  Inner City Press replied that it believed and believes Pioli is corrupt, that he took rent money from Palitha Kohona then unilaterally granted Kohona's request as Sri Lanka's Ambassador for an UNCA / “UN” screening of his government's war crimes denial film, “Lies Agreed To.” And that Pioli after demanding censorship of Inner City Press' coverage has used UNCA and now DPI to try to throw Inner City Press out of the UN, just as Pioli first threatened.

Ban with Pioli, who told Inner City Press, "You are an asshole." Credit UN Photo/Evan Schneider

  Another UNCA board member -- Inner City Press quit its elected position on that board in 2012, saying openly that Pioli was corrupt, now in taking money from indicted Ng Lap Seng's South South News and granting him a photo op with Ban Ki-moon -- said such language should not be used at the stakeout.

  But it was Pioli who approached Inner City Press, which hasn't willingly spoke with Pioli in more than a year.

  So it is for this person that Cristina Gallach first ordered Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours notice on February 19 and on whom she has since leaned in trying to defend her February 19 decision, which was reached without once speaking with Inner City Press.

Ban shakes with Cristina Gallach, who threw ICP out of UN on Feb 19, 2016 on 2 hours notice. Credit UN Photo

  Her rationale was that Inner City Press secretly filmed a closed meeting, but that doesn't stand up: the meeting was nowhere listed as closed, and Inner City Press openly live-streamed and even live Tweeted it: hardly secret.

  So the fallback argument was that since Inner City Press covered the UNCA event in the UN Press Briefing Room from one of the glassed-in interpreters' booths, in order to avoid just such a response as Pioli's “asshole” on March 24, it had violated some as-yet unproduced rule about not being in an interpreters booth.

  But on March 23 Inner City Press observed and filmed two non-interpreters in the “other” interpreters booth in the UN Press Briefing Room while UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq read out statements and did NOTHING about the use of the interpreters booth.

  On March 24, Inner City Press asked Haq about it, from the UN Transcript

 On his way out of the UN Press Briefing Room, Haq said to Inner City Press, “Liar.” This is the atmosphere created, when DPI and the Spokesperson's office have allowed a character like Pioli, angry at coverage of his financial dealings with Sri Lanka's ambassador, to essentially run the asylum.

   It seems clear now that there must be a complete reversal of  Gallach's February 19 order, based on false facts (closed meeting, “secret” filming), a dubious rule and at the behest of an UNCA boss who barely writes articles, seeks to control UN office space and comes to the UN Security Council stakeout to call a critic an asshole. We'll have more on this.