Saturday, April 2, 2016

On South-South News, Bribery Vehicle, UN Tells ICP No New Audit, Cover Up

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 -- 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, became more clear on March 28.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the noon briefing on March 28 the following, as mis-transcribed by the UN:

Inner City Press: This has to do with UN corruption or I said otherwise South-South News.  In October I’d asked you about these multiple inclusions of South-South News content in UN Television archives.  While you were away, Farhan explained one, one incident saying that it had, it was a request from Habitat, but I’ve gone back and looked, and as you may know, there are many of them.  And so I wanted to know…

Spokesman Dujarric:  Again, all…


Spokesman:  I think you have… you have asked this question.  If I’m not mistaken, my answer to you was to check with DPI.

Inner City Press: But my question is, given there are other things that came up while you were away that remain unexplained including a statement of support for South-South News by the Under-Secretary-General of DPI that remains online.  I wanted to know…


Spokesman:  I think obviously, you know, it’s clear that the latest legal decisions taken by courts in New York and prosecutors I think will push us to again review the situation.  Second, you know, as for the statement that the Under-Secretary-General made at the time, she made the statement.  You know, taking it down, we’re not going to whitewash what was said.  And obviously, at the time, no one had any indication that there was anything untowards going on with the leadership of South-South News.

Inner City Press:  But my question, given what you’ve said now, which is Mr. Frank Lorenzo pleading guilty and Vivian Wang being indicted right after that, both of South-South News what is the thinking of expanding or having a new audit…

Spokesman:  I just said two seconds ago…

Inner City Press:  Right.  I didn’t…

Spokesman:  …obviously, the latest issues are pushing us to review a…


Inner City Press:  Is that a reference to perhaps starting a new OIOS audit?

Spokesman:  No, it’s just reviewing the current situation with South-South News.

Thank you, all.

  Yeah, thanks. 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:

Inner City Press: Yesterday, as you held your briefing, there were two individuals in the booth right there, the interpreter's booth, the other interpreter's booth.  And I wanted to know, since it's been explained to me that there's some clear rule, it's been said that the Under-Secretary-General of Department of Public Information says that there's an extremely clear rule that only interpreters can be in these booths, and if anyone other than interpreters are in the booth, they face summary ouster from the United Nations.  What was the use of this… please explain, because he's been asked for the rule and didn't provide the rule.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, there was, in fact, a violation of the room, which we… which we have taken up…

Inner City Press:  A violation of what rule?  Can you provide the rule?  Because she's been asked for the rule.

Deputy Spokesman:  This is by our fellow DPI staff who were unaware of this, but they have been told they cannot use that room, that they cannot and must not.

Inner City Press:  Who were they?  And did you know yesterday when you did nothing during your presence there?

Deputy Spokesman:  I did not know, because, as when you were hiding there, it's difficult for me to tell that there are people there.

Inner City Press:  There's no hiding.  They're totally visible.  So, you're saying you didn't know and you did nothing, yet it's an extremely strong rule.

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I didn't say I did nothing.  In fact, we were apprised of this, and they cannot use that room.  Thanks.

 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.