Wednesday, June 1, 2016

As Egyptian Dip Cites "Dogs & Slaves," Inner City Press Asks UN About It, Silent of Akhbar Elyom


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- As the Egyptian government steps up its crackdown on the media, now arresting Yahia Galash, head of the Press Syndicate and senior board members Khaled Elbalshy and Gamal Abd el-Reheem, the Sisi-supporting media has stayed quiet or participated. 
This includes Akhbar Elyom, the publication to which the UN of Ban Ki-moon is giving the long time shared office space of Inner City Press, from which the UN evicted Inner City Press on April 14 (see New York Times of May 14, here). Nor did Akhbar Elyom ask about Egypt's quote at UNEP; Inner City Press did, on June 1, video here, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: quote is from the UNEP [United Nations Environment Program] meeting in Nairobi.  There's been quite a bit of controversy when an Egyptian minister, Mohamed Hesham Shoeir, was caught… was saying in Arabic, calling the sub-Saharan African members of the group dogs and slaves.  This was the quote.  And so it's caused a lot of division in the African group.  Some people are saying Egypt shouldn't represent Africa at such meetings anymore.  Since it took place in a UN venue, what… does the Secretary-General have any either insight or statement on this rift in the group?

Spokesman:  No, no… obviously, whatever rift there may exist in the Africa Group needs to be dealt with within the group.  It's a Member State issue.  We would obviously hope that there is a minimum of decorum in any debate in an intergovernmental body.
On May 31 Inner City Press - not Akhbar Elyom - asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the crackdown in Egypt. Video hereUN Transcript here: 
Inner City Press: in Egypt.  I’m waiting for a statement there…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  They apply across the board.  We, obviously, have seen the reports of new charges being brought against the Union of Journalists in Egypt.  We remain concerned at the situation.  We’re following it closely.  
 If Team Ban saw the crackdown and was so concerned, why did it issue no statement until asked by Inner City Press? Why is it giving Inner City Press' long time UN office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom, whose rarely seen correspondent Sanaa Youssef, a former President of the UN Correspondents Association, asks no questions at all?  Perhaps the question answers itself. We'll have more on this. 
 This while Ban Ki-moon speaks about "authoritarian impulses" and ostensibly for press freedom, while campaigning in South Korea. (See article in Korean here,robo-translation here.) 
Meanwhile the Committee to Protect Journalists has said
“Authorities are pursuing Yehia Qallash, Khaled al-Balshy, and Gamal Abdel Rahim for trying to defend the Egyptian media against a thin-skinned and brutal security apparatus," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. "We call on Egyptian prosecutors to drop these charges immediately and stop harassing journalists."
  But CPJ has yet to speak on Ban's UN evicting the investigative press, much less on Ban then giving Inner City Press' UN shared office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom. We'll have more on this.
Amnesty International’s interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme Magdalena Mughrabi said:

"The arrest of key media figures at the Press Syndicate signals a dangerous escalation of the Egyptian authorities’ draconian clampdown on freedom of expression and demonstrates the extreme measures the authorities are prepared to take in order to tighten their iron grip on power.

“By prosecuting senior members of the Press Syndicate the authorities are clearly attempting to punish them for speaking out against the government and to send a strong message to intimidate all journalists into silence. The authorities must immediately order their release and drop the charges against them.” bo-translation here.)
  Back on May 18 US Secretary of State met Egyptian President al-Sisi and issued this read-out: 
"Secretary Kerry met today in Cairo with Egyptian president al-Sisi, where they discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including recent developments in Libya and Syria. The Secretary expressed his appreciation for the president's recent statement of strong support for advancing Arab-Israeli peace.  Secretary Kerry also stressed the importance of Egypt's role as a regional partner and reiterated U.S. commitment to help Egypt fight terrorism, increase economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions and bolster regional security." 
On Libya, one wonders how the prospect of arming the new government, and separately Haftar, came up.
Is "strengthen democratic institutions" a euphemism for press freedom? US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power that week tweeted about the trial of photo-journalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid - while what is described below is happening at the UN, and see this letter from the Government Accountability Project. See also this Vine, and this one. 
"For ten years as Inner City Press covered the UN in ever greater detail, showing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Herve Ladsous' inept overseeing and cover up of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepersdalliance with genocide in Sri Lanka and prospectively Burundi, impunity forcholera deaths in Haiti and until now forUN lead poisoning in Kosovo and cravenly pro-Saudi position on Yemen amid the airstrikes, it was never thrown out of the UN. 
Now it has been, and even as groups like the Government Accountability Project tell Ban to reverse the eviction and give Inner City Press back its long time office and Resident Correspondent pass, Ban's UN tellingly move to award Inner City Press' office to Egypt state media Al-Akhbar / Akhbar Elyoum. 
Akhbar Elyom has been used to finger for imprisonment non-state journalists in Egypt. For example, in July 2015 Aboubakr Khallaf, the founder and head of the independent Electronic Media Syndicate (EMS), “was arrested after a news article was published by the government-owned daily Akhbar Elyoum.” (Article in Arabic here.) 
According to CPJ, Khallaf's EMS “trains and supports journalists who work online in Egypt. The syndicate operates independently from the state-recognized Egyptian Journalists Syndicate... 
The local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture and the local Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said Khallaf was also accused of 'taking pictures and displaying artistic works without a license,' among other allegations. A 1998 executive order states that individuals conducting audio and audiovisual work must have a license from the Ministry of Culture. According to AFTE, the accusation is in connection with Khallaf photographing the funeral of Hisham Barakat, Egypt's prosecutor general who was assassinated late last month."
There are many echoes of this in Ban's UN: as simply one example Ban's Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach telling Inner City Press it takes photographs of things that "are not newsworthy." There are more, and more examples of Akbar Elyom. 
Only when it questioned Ban's and its PR official CristinaGallach's roles in the John Ashe, Ng Lap Seng and Francis Lorenzo UN bribery scandal did Gallach order Inner City Press ousted then evicted, and now try to give its office to an Egyptian media which rarely or never asked questions. Ban Ki-moon claimed “That is not my decision,” but that is not true.
  The New York Times on May 14 covered the story. But they did not in their long process report, because it happened at the end, that Ban Ki-moon and Gallach are moving to give Inner City Press' long time office to Egyptian state media, Al Akhbar / Akhbar El-Yom / Akher Saa, to a correspondent Sanaa Youssef who most even on the UN press floor have never seen. 
Her "in" seems to be that she was a previous president of the UN Correspondents Association, now become the UN's Censorship Alliance. As one respected usual UN interlocutor put it, "it would be a hugely negative symbolic step for Egyptian state media to replace Inner City Press in the UN." 
 A longtime UN correspondent who spotted her moving in on Inner City Press' office noted she had not been seen before; the name was confirmed by UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, which refused to provide the waiting list or describe the rationale. 
But this is Ban's and Gallach's UN (click here for a Spanish take on Gallach's tenure.) We are beginning to report this now because it has proven nearly impossible to reach Al Akhbar / Akhbar Al Yom - the telephone numbers listed online are disconnected, or private homes; the correspondent at UNCA address has been unresponsive.The absurdity of this has been directly raised to Ban Ki-moon, his Deputy and Chief of Staff with enough time to stop it. We'll see. 
  For now from the NYT we note this quote: “It’s not exactly the same access,’’ Mr. Dujarric said, “but if he has an issue, there is a staff of media liaisons to help him resolve the problem and get where he needs to go.”
  This is false. As Inner City Press has raised to Ban Ki-moon, "even when begrudgingly accompanied by a staff member of your Spokesperson's office, UN Security refused to allow me through the turnstile onto the second floor of Conference Building. I have been told not to ask questions of diplomats, just after you came out of ECOSOC and even with a MALU minder / escort with me, a UN Security official stood directly in front of me, apparently so I couldn't even try to ask you a question. This is censorship."  We await response.
    UN Correspondents Association boss Giampaolo Pioli lied, but at least on the record. (He rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona then granted Kohona's request, as Sri Lanka's Ambassador, to screen his government's war crimes denial film in the UN. Then Pioli told Inner City Press to take its story about it off the Internet or be thrown out of the UN, which Gallach and Ban did: UN Censorship Alliance.)
In any event, who is a rarely present boss of an ostensible Correspondents Association (morphing into the UN's Censorship Alliance) to lobby for the ouster of an investigative journalist so that his office can be handed to a never present former UNCA president - a representative of state owned media who never asks questions? This too has been raised and we await response.
  What's next? Is it acceptable for the UN to throw out a critical journalist writing four to eight stories a day, while leaving in people who write little, and ask nothing? Is Ban Ki-moon killing the UN? Watch this site.
The UN is now both corrupt -- a half a dozen indictments and counting, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cavorting with the indicted and his team covering it up -- retaliatory and badly run. 
Now the UN is moving to give away Inner City Press' long time office as retaliation for its seeking to cover the bribery and corruption scandal, including  trying to cover a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA), a group which took money from the indicteds' company, Ban Ki-moon's “Communications” chief Cristina Gallach threw Inner City Press out of the UN on February 19. 
So to whom does the UN seek to give Inner City Press' office away? A former UNCA President, who it seems has not asked any question, much less a critical question, in the UN Press Briefing Room or stakeout in quite some time. 
Inner City Press has in the past defended correspondents when the UN sought late in their careers to move them along, and is treading lightly for now: perhaps this former UNCA President didn't know the history here. 
(The current UNCA website doesn't even list its past Presidents, perhaps wisely: it seems to be a Year Zero operation.) 
But what is the UN's rationale of giving away the office of a working, critical journalist to a former UNCA president who asks even fewer questions than the current UNCA president?
It's called retaliation, or some say, human shields. Who is responsible?
Audio hereBan, when asked, said “that is not my decision.” But he heard about the ouster and eviction in advance and ok-ed it.
On April 16, the acting chief of Gallach's “Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit Tal Mekel oversaw the eviction of Inner City Press' office, leaving five boxes of its files out on First Avenue. Video here.
Some in Ban's team indicated to Inner City Press its office would be left empty until its four month “purgatory” or punishment-for-reporting period was over. 
That was a lie: on May 13, after Inner City Press asked more questions about Ban's engagements with John Ashe and Francis Lorenzo - president of South South News which paid UNCA and still has a UN office - Inner City Press was informed that its long time office is being given out -- apparently, to a former President of UNCA.
   When Inner City Press asked to see the supposed waiting list, this was refused by Mekel. It is apparently entirely up to Gallach - or UNCA - who is given UN office space, without which one cannot access the UN Conference Building's second floor, see below. 
On May 13 as the UN Security Council began a meeting about Lebanon, the glass doors to enter the Council were locked. Apparenlty the UN can't afford one guard for a Security Council meeting, but won't provide information requested by the Press about Ban Ki-moon's endless and largely fruitless travel.
   Inner City Press, which covers the UN corruption scandal and was ousted then evicted by an official implicated in the scandal, Cristina Gallach -- see OIOS audit Paragraphs 37 to 40 and 20(b) -- with Ban Ki-moon's full knowledge, was unable to get to the Security Council stakeout. Its pass, cut by Gallach, won't open the turnstile at the other end of the stakeout. This week a guard there even refused to allow Inner City Press through to a stakeout with a staffer of the Spokesperson's office.
   Gallach, at least according to some paid to tweet for the UN, is in Washington. So Inner City Press undertook to document the restrictions and censorship. Another UN system spokesperson tried to undermine it, as did UN Security. They claimed everything is fine, even as Security Council Ambassadors asked them how can it be that the door is locked (and Press excluded). Some Security write-up began, sure to omit all of this. Watch this site - and see below.
While many try to insulate today's UN from the open corruption of the recent past of President of the General Assembly John Ashe, and of Francis Lorenzo who has pleaded guilty, there is continuity to this UN scandal. This includes a revival of the Ng Lap Seng's old "South South News" team, with El Salvador ex-Ambassador Carlos Garcia and others, even as those investigating this UN corruption are evicted and restricted, and those covering it up are rewarded. 
   Inner City Press has repeatedly asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Ban's appearance at an event sponsored by the Francis Lorenzo registered group Global Governance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Q&A videos here and here
Dujarric tried to answer about another group, then said Lorenzo's connection to the group isn't clear. Q&A video here.
   Well, now Inner City Press can report that the "Global Governance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals"event Ban attended was with indicted John Ashe, his wife Anilla Cherian's book launch. Video here.
 It featured speeches by Ban and by Francis Lorenzo, who in his speech named both GG-UNSDG and Global National Competitiveness Cooperation Organization for the UN, which sponsored the DPI-NGO conference last year at which Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach spoke.Q&A video here.
   How did this not show up in the UN's audit of l'affaireJohn Ashe and Ng Lap Seng? How did this book launch event get inserted into UNTV archives, run by Gallach's DPI? On the video, Ban and then Mrs. Ban are thanked by Ashe and then Anilla Cherian. The indictment details how over $1,000,000 was withdrawn from the PGA Accounts and transferred to the personal accounts of Ashe and of Anilla Cherian; no-show jobs are also described.
   Then there is the speech of Francis Lorenzo, how Anilla Cherian showed Ban the book even before Ashe. The UN has been trying to downplay or conceal Ban Ki-moon's contacts with Lorenzo, most recently saying it's unclear how Lorenzo is connected to a group that he, Lorenzo, register, and another one he founded. Those obfuscations cannot stand; separately, the retaliation is more and more clear. We'll have more on this.
As UN officials including Cristina Gallach, whoseinvolvement in the scandal is detailed in the UN's ownOffice of Internal Oversight Services audit at Paragraphs 37 to 40 and 20(b) have moved to evict Inner City Press  from the UN premises (video hereCourthouse News article here) and restrict its access, Inner City Press has been made aware of a revival of the South South News model, in organizations which retains ties to indicted Ng Lap Seng.   
And Gallach's Department of Public Information continues partnering with these organizations, even as DPI falls apart on Gallach's watch. The last NGO Conference at the UN, sponsored by South Korea among others, had as a sponsor and speaker the "Global National Competitiveness Cooperation Organization for the UN," one of four Sponsors of indicted Francis Lorenzo's Global Governance for the UN SDGs.  Gallach even spoke at the event.