Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On DRC, Ban on Protests After Those At UN Arrested, UN Mumbled About Rights, Evicts

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- On the Democratic Republic of the Congo Inner City Press on May 5 and May 6 asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about threats against opposition candidates Moise Katumbi. The spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the UN Peacekeeping mission controlled by USG Herve Ladsous has no mandate to protect candidates. Vine here.

On May 25, with Ban on what's viewed as a personal political trip to South Korea, the UN issued a canned Ban statement about upcoming demonstrations:

"The Secretary-General is profoundly concerned by reports of increasing political tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo linked to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the country's electoral process. The Secretary-General calls for the strict respect of the fundamental freedoms and rights enshrined in the Constitution. He urges all parties to exercise restraint and express their views peacefully, including in the context of demonstrations scheduled to take place on 26 May."

Would or will Ban's UN offer any protection?

On May 16, after people peacefully protesting against the UN's failure to protect civilians in Goma were arrested, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: On the DRC, it seems like, on Saturday, there was a protest of the UN compound or base in Goma of the failure to protect civilians.  And then the protesters and a journalist were, in fact, arrested or detained.  I wanted to know, what is the… does the UN think that people peacefully protesting outside its compound should be arrested?  And if not, what does the UN do in response to the detention of people protesting the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we encourage and allow all forms of peaceful protest.  That's not to be discouraged.  I'm not aware of whether there were other factors behind this, but ultimately, that will be a question for MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] to handle.

Inner City Press:  Right, but if you encourage that right and a host country… I mean, I guess I'm asking you specifically about this, but there should be an answer to this…

Deputy Spokesman:  If any authority… if authorities don't allow for peaceful protest, that's a question of concern for us.  We encourage all authorities in all countries to allow peaceful protest.

  On May 9 Katumbi was hauled in for questions and Muteba "Robot" detained and taken away, perhaps to Kinshasa. On May 10, Inner City Press against asked Dujarric, who had "no specific comment," see below.

 Contrary to what the UN says about freedom of the press, and despite apetition signed by 1400 people and opposition from the Government Accountability Project and several Permanent Representatives at the UN and members of Congress in DC, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on April 16 threw five boxes of Inner City Press' journalistic files out onto First Avenue. Photo here;  video here and here (Periscope). The New York Times covered the story on May 14, here.

 On May 5, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman about UN silence on the DR Congo, UN Transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  Obviously, it's a very large UN peacekeeping mission, and the run-up to the elections, the… for example, opposition candidate Moise Katumbi's house was surrounded by police.  There have been violence directed and… and… and halting of peaceful demonstration in various cities, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa.  So, I haven't heard that much from the Mission.  What is the UN's role in the election?  What do they think about the authorities… the… the Government has accused Katumbi of having US mercenaries.  So, things are kind of heating up.  What is the UN intending to do?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I think the Secretary-General and others in the Mission had expressed their concern at the situation… the current situation in the DRC.  The Government has a clear responsibility to allow for peaceful demonstration, especially in a run-up to an election where people need to be able to express themselves freely, either through peaceful protest or through the media.  And that continues to be our position.  It's a message that will continue to be conveyed to the Government.

Inner City Press:  Does the UN, with this number of peacekeepers it has there, have any role in… in ensuring that peaceful protesters aren't roughed up?  I'm asking this, because there's an analysis that says the UN doesn't want to be thrown out it so much doesn't want to be thrown out that it's essentially gone relatively quiet...

Spokesman:  I don't agree with that analysis.  MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] has a specific mandate, and they will follow that mandate.

On May 6, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about this mandate, which he said does NOT include protecting opposition candidates under threat,Vine here,

 UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On the DRC, I'd asked you yesterday about the surrounding of the candidate [Moïse] Katumbi's house.  But, I don't understand the distinction.  If they have a protection of civilians mandate and a candidate is also a civilian and among other things… for example, he's apparently tried to get his own security, and the Government has now sought to throw out of the country… there's a guy called Daryl Lewis who may… people who got visas, so once he's accused of having them be his mercenaries, may well be bodyguards.  So, clearly something is escalating there.  What exactly…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  There is no specific mandate to provide close protection to political… to political leaders.  However, within its protection of civilian mandates, the mission can act to protect civilians under imminent threats and will obviously continue to closely monitor all the situations where there's a risk of violation of human rights or international law.  And as I mentioned, the Deputy Special Representative [David] Gressly met with the representatives of the G7 I think yesterday to explain to them the situation.

Inner City Press:  So, he's supposed to call when--

Spokesman:  Matthew, there is no… as I said, there's no specific mandate to provide close protection; however, if there is an imminent threat, the mission does have a mandate.

  On May 10, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again, UN Transcript here:

Inner City Press: Do you have anything on the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo)?  I was asking about Mr. [Moise] Katumbi.  And there was a court appearance yesterday.  Some of his supporters were arrested.  What has MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) been doing and what’s the response to it? [inaudible]

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think nothing… nothing specific on that appearance.  I think the Secretary-General’s message would be, yet again, as he said himself in Kinshasa not too long ago, is that there is a need for a… to create a political atmosphere that allows for the peaceful demonstration, the peaceful… and for elections where people’s voices are heard.

  On April 23, the day after Ban held disclosed photo-ops and meetings with officials from, among others, Hungary, Malta, Burundi and Poland, Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric issued a read-out that Ban on Saturday, without any notice through his Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, had met with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila.

  After this meeting Kabila's forces arrested supporters of Vital Kamerhe's opposition UNC in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, and members of the family of MSR President Pierre Lumbi.

  Dujarric's read-out was bland:

"The Secretary-General met today H.E. Mr. Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They exchanged views on the political and security situation in the DRC and the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

The Secretary-General encouraged the Government to take the necessary measures to ease political tensions in order to pave the way for peaceful and credible presidential and legislative elections in accordance with the Constitution.

The Secretary-General also encouraged the Government of the DRC to continue pursuing a strategic dialogue with MONUSCO, including the joint development of an exit strategy for the Mission.

The Secretary-General underlined the importance of the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and hoped that the Paris Agreement on Climate Change signed yesterday would soon be ratified in the DRC."

  The wan third paragraph contrasts to Morocco simply throwing the civilian component of the UN's MINURSO mission out of the country. The second paragraph is even more lame: twelve hours later the MONUSCO mission put out a statement of concern "about rising political tensions in some parts of the DRC. This situation follows the announcement by certain political groups and parties of their intention to organize political gatherings in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi and subsequent measures taken by the security forces to prevent the holding of these gatherings."

It was said that the UN, or perhaps only MONUSCO given Ban's stands this year, "urges the Congolese authorities to do their utmost to scrupulously uphold the rule of law and desist from any actions that could impede political actors from exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, association and assembly."

  Beyond evicting Inner City Press without due process or appeal, Ban's MALU tore down the sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access and has not put it back up (this is a pattern under Ban); the UN Correspondents Association affiliated troll social media, which has Dujarric and USG of DPI Cristina Gallach among its few followers, has taken to attacking not only Inner City Press but FUNCA (whose Somaliland member, prior to the attacks, raised the issue of Ban's hypocrisy, including directly to Dujarric.)

  Are these incongruities why Ban's meeting with Kabila was essentially kept secret? Is it why on Ban's MONUSCO's website there are no press releases from 2016, but still a denunciation of media about the FDLR? We'll have more on this and on the incongruity, since February 19 and then April 16, of Ban calling for respect for the media, for due press and the rule of law.

  On February 19, eight of Ban's guards, at the direction of his "Public Information" chief Cristina Gallach, physically throwing Inner City Press onto First Avenue, and its laptop on the sidewalk. Audio here.

On April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video hereUN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I’m going to again try to do this politely, but I want to ask this question.  In the audit, of the OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) audit, one of the longest sections in terms of Ng Lap Seng affiliates concern South-South News.  They described five separate engagements with the UN, and each party is saying we didn’t really know or we… we’re… you know, and the recommendation that you’re aware of to… to take a closer look at this relationship.  So I wanted to know, yesterday, or… or some… earlier this week, South-South News put out a press release, sent to many people, and they said, “It is disgraceful that a few independent journalists are exhibiting a lack of professionalism and irresponsibility,” essentially by questioning this.  So my question to you is… you may or may not have seen this.  Reuters wrote a story about it.

Spokesman:  Yeah.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  You’ve seen it.  Here’s my question.  Given all this, given that the indictment came out in October, six months ago, I went upstairs yesterday, and I see that South-South News still has a UN office.  And apparently, you said it’s under review.  There seems to be some due process rights.  What I want to ask you directly is:  How can there be a due process right with an institution that’s charged with bribery when a smaller institution, Inner City Press, was physically thrown out of its office with no due process?  And my question to you is, given that, yesterday, they tore a sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access (FUNCA) off the door without the consent of the office’s still occupant, who’s a member of FUNCA, what is the intention?  And what would you say to those who say, basically, if you have money, you get due process at the UN, up to six months, and if you don’t, you get two hours?  What would you say?

Spokesman:  I would say that you’re wrong, and I think you’ve been afforded quite a lot of courtesies.  Thank you.

Inner City Press:  Really?  Oh, really?  Files on the street?

 On April 20, when Inner City Press arrived at the UN's Visitors' Entrance well in time to cover 10 am meetings, a UN Security guard blocked its way in to the metal detectors.

  "I know who you are," the guard said, telling Inner City Press to go to the back of a long line of visitors.

   Since on all previously days non-resident correspondents, like the "affiliates" who staff the UN's food venues and even its UNTV, are sent into the glass building with the metal detectors, this new "rule" was noteworthy.

 So on April 20, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: this is on access.  I’m going to try to do it as politely and productively as possible, but I wanted to ask you something.  This week I was stopped at the gate coming in on 46th Street at 6 p. m. and told that I cannot enter after 6 p.m.  And the rules say 7.  So I wanted to know, today I was told to go to the back of the line of NGOs and was told, “We know who you are; go to the back.”  So it took about 35 minutes to get into the building.  I call… you said call MALU (Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit), and I did, and nothing occurred.  And so I’m asking you, because this is injuring my work.  And my final piece is, when a meeting such as the one between [John] Kerry and Mr.… Mr. Kerry and Mr. [Javad] Zarif takes place, is this… I wasn’t able to get through the turnstile.  And so I wanted to know, this is obviously a newsworthy event that those with white passes can cover.  How am I supposed to cover that?

Spokesman:  On those… on the second part… on the last meeting, I think you should talk to MALU and make sure they get you in.

Inner City Press:  It…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  It’s a very busy time of the… at the General Assembly… at the UN.  There’s a line.  I think people wait on line.

Question:  So you’re saying the media generally, because I’ve seen people go straight through the…  [inaudible] … “I know who you are; go to the back of the line,” so I’m asking.

Spokesman:  I don’t manage crowd control.  If there’s a line to get in, if people tell you get in a line, you get in a line.  And on your first part, again, discuss these things with MALU and DPI (Department of Public Information).

 (Later on April 20, DPI's MALU tore the Free UN Coalition for Access sign off S-303 without the FUNCA member / occupant's consent and apparently moved to sell off the space, which was immediately and formally opposed.)

  Inner City Press, as Ban's spokesman has often advised before walking off the podium even as Inner City Press asked questions, called the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit. But ultimately nothing was solved -- Inner City Press was only able to enter the UN 25 minutes late. Thanks, Ban Ki-moon, and Cristina Gallach -- also for BANning Press access to the stakeout by John Kerry and Javad Zarif on the JCPOA on April 19, here.

 At the noon briefing on April 20 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman about these and about being BANned at 6 pm. Vine here.

 Dujarric cut in: "You should talk to MALU and make sure they get you in. It's a very busy time at the GA and the UN, there's a line, people wait on line. I don't manage crowd control, if people tell you to get on line, I think you get on line."

  So there you have it. When another (visiting) journalist asked about waiting for two hours for a pass, with 500 people and no water or chairs for the elderly, no fire exits, Dujarric was more conciliatory, saying, "I apologize and will raise with my colleagues."

 But when Inner City Press asked about what an NGO said was the UN's confiscation of its newsletter, Dujarric said curtly, "There was no confiscation." Of course not - everything is FINE at the UN. Just look at the recent patterns..

 On April 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about corruption, and the files, video hereUN transcript here:

Spokesman Dujarric: I will say, for the record, that your files were not moved out on First Avenue.  From what I gather and from watching the live broadcast over the weekend, you refused to provide an address for them to be shipped.

Inner City Press:  Because I don’t trust them.

Spokesman:  Well, that’s… but that’s your choice.

Inner City Press:  Why would I?  Would you?

Spokesman:  That’s your choice.  I don’t want you to portray that they’ve been moved or thrown out.

Inner City Press:  They were thrown out onto First Avenue.  Ban Ki-moon…

Spokesman:  I’ll come back to you.

  Between 6 and 7 pm on April 18, despite a Media Access "Guideline" saying even those with non-resident correspondent status can enter the UN up to 7 pm, an abusive UN guard targeted Inner City Press, apparently at Gallach's or Ban's instructions, claiming falsely that six pm is the cut off. This is today's UN.

  In the case of Gallach and ultimately Ban Ki-moon, this is retaliation for Inner City Press' critical coverage of the UN including each's involvement in the Ng Lap Seng bribery scandal which so far was resulted in four guilty pleas.

  Here is Ban Ki-moon's message in the August 2015 program for Ng Lap Seng's event in Macau, see page 2, at which UN staff and affiliates took and kept free iPads, a vice president of the UN Correspondents Association attended and Ban Ki-moon, here, gave and has never withdrawn his blessing:

"Macau SAR, China, 25 August 2015: I am pleased to send greetings to this High-level Multi-stakeholders Strategy Forum on Scaling-up Global
Support for South-South and Triangular Cooperation in the Context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda."

  As the UN bribery scandal gathered force Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services of the Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF), David Ng Lap Seng's Sun Kian Ip Group and its affiliates including the "World Harmony Foundation" and South South News, among others.

  The audit, completed early this year but first put online by Inner City Press, directly criticizes Cristina Gallach, the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, for example in Paragraphs 20(b) and 37-40. She should have recused herself.

  Instead Gallach has ordered the search and eviction of Inner City Press' files, on April 16. She has misrepresented it to UN Ambassadors of major countries including South Africa and to Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta.

She and / or Ban Ki-moon above her are so intent on permanently restriction Inner City Press' ability to cover corruption at the UN that they had there functionary head of MALU write to Inner City Press at 1:30 AM on the morning of the eviction, limiting the Press' ability to document the seizure of its files:

From: Tal Mekel 
Date: Sat, Apr 16, 2016 at 1:30 AM
Subject: Saturday access

Dear Matthew,

Access on Saturday is 'exceptional' in nature (as Green Ps do not have access to UNHQ on weekends save for an official event being convened e/g. emergency SC meeting) and is solely for the purpose of over sighting the removal of your belongings.

You may bring with you one (1) individual, again on a  exceptional basis.

Best, Tal

Tal Mekel
Acting Chief
Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit
United Nations - S-250
New York, NY 10017

Tel: 1-212-963-1504
Fax: 1-212-963-4642

   Earlier on April 15, Mekel had told Inner City Press that a two-person film crew was approved. This was revoked at 1:30 am, precluding the crew. And yet...

 This inordinate focus on ousting Inner City Press, while UN Correspondents Association board members have private offices and many write no articles, is all the more contrary to freedom of the press as Inner City Press on April 15 exclusively published documents of UN and Morocco fraud in Western Saharacredited by 360, here.

Gallach, the highest UN official of Spain, has by her no due process orders BANned Inner City Press from covering even UNSC meetings on Western Sahara. This is retaliation and censorship.

On the afternoon of April 15 Inner City Press was told that it will be UN staff going through the files but that then they will be given to, and impounded for some time by, a third party or parties whom the UN won't even name to Inner City Press.

As one wag put it, maybe they'll just keep passing them along.

  Gallach's Team heard on April 15 from Capitol Hill to maintain the status quo. Did they even tell Ban Ki-moon, his chief of staff or deputy? Is this what allows Ban Ki-moon to (try to) say, "That is not my decision"? We'll have more on this.