By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- When Inner City Press went to cover the UN conclusion of the High Level Political Forum on July 20, it was told by a UN Security official it could only do so with an escort, or minder, from UN Media Accreditation. There was no one in that office - but when the supervisor of it asked the UN Security official to let Inner City Press through the turnstile, he said only if someone stayed with Inner City Press the whole time -- that is, a minder. The supervisor could not. And that was it: censorship.
Inside the meeting, South Korean ambassador Oh Joon, who has previously been asked about Ban Ki-moon's censorship of and restrictions on the Press, was urging states not to call for a vote. Nigaragua's Deputy Permanent Representative pushed back. It was something to cover - but Ban Ki-moon, through his head of Communications Cristina Gallach, Banned coverage of it. Oh Joon declined to disclose two countries he referred to.
Nicaragua got its vote, but Gallach's DPI did not distribute the voting list. While being banned from the turnstile precluded Inner City Press from being able to speak with several of the protagonists, it did ask Oh Joon who the two countries are. He said, I didn't know you were interested in this. But he'd previously been told that Ban's eviction hinders the Press from covering ECOSOC.
On July 12 when Inner City Press went to coverUN Security General Ban Ki-moon's speech on human right, it was required to be escorted by one of Ban's minders, due to its eviction earlier this year by Ban and his Under Secretary General for Public Information, Cristina Gallach.
But even after escort by a minder, just before Ban Ki-moon's speech Inner City Press was surrounded by six UN Security officers who demanded that it leave.
When Inner City Press pointed out that the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit does not have enough staff, the officer in charge said Inner City Press would be confined to “covering” the meeting from the third floor - that is, unable to speak with any diplomats (several of whom, even on July 12, approached to speak with Inner City Press, at least until Ban's guards targeted Inner City Press for censorship.)
The UN officers claimed Inner City Press misspoke, so since Inner City Press was, as it told MALU and as other correspondent can do but didn't on July 12, stakeout out the meeting, here is the audio.
While precluded from even hearing all of Ban's speech, his hearkening to “Rights Up Front” without mentioning his UN's systemic failure in Sri Lanka which triggered it rang hollow. He said he would deliver for member states - after delivering for Saudi Arabia by dropping it from the Yemen Children and Armed Conflict list. This is Ban's UN -- six guards harassing the Press to not cover the hypocrisy of a human right speech.
Team Ban have tried to refer everything about the Press eviction back to Cristina Gallach - a form of buck-passing they urge others noot to do. Gallach was asked about ousting Inner City Press by the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights Defendersand two months later claimed there was an altercation (video disproves this). She told Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta she has an "internal report" supporting her ouster of Inner City Press, then the UN told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee the UN has "no records." Inner City Press has asked Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople for a copy of the "internal report," but none has been produced. The SFRC "Aide Memoire" says nowhere was it in writing that the UN Press Briefing Room event was closed.
Among the results of Gallach's ouster and eviction orders is that Inner City Press cannot cover events on the second floor of the Conference Building without a minder; on July 10, Inner City Press covering South Sudan was ordered to leave the Security Council stakeout when other correspondents could stay.
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. On June 29, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq about it , video here, UN transcript here and below.
Now the "Curcio" issues involving South South News are set for an initial hearing in a week's time, as the UN has avoided acting on bribery since October 2015 while evicting Inner City Press without speaking to it once. From the July 11 order in the Ng Lap Seng case:
"Defendant Ng and his counsel, with CJA counsel Mr. Wikstrom, and counsel for the Government, are instructed to appear for the conclusion of the Curcio hearing on Monday, July 18, 2016 at 10:00 a.m... Trial is set to commence on January 23, 2017."
In Federal Court, there more links between South South News, still with a UN official from Ban Ki-moon as Inner City Press while investigating it was evicted, and bribery in the United Nations. On July 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, video here, UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: There's been new filings in the Ng Lap Seng case in the Southern District, and since you'd said previously that the UN is monitoring this, these filings have to do directly with South-South News. And they quote… they have put into the record a letter in which South-South News is described as wanting to have part of this Macau Centre that was the… the thing that Ng Lap Seng was trying to procure these documents for. It's described as a global media platform authorized by the UN. And they put these in as… as essentially saying that this is a conduit for bribery. So, I wanted to know: Since you've said that the UN is monitoring this, given that the prosecutor [inaudible] has put this… this letter, I guess they got it in discovery or in some other fashion in, what is the UN's response to it?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, like I said, we have been monitoring it and are looking at all of the information that's coming up. And in that regard, as you know, there's an ongoing review of the status of South-South News. There's no conclusion to that review at this point.
Inner City Press: And I'd asked on Tuesday. I'd asked Stéphane in writing… there was a meeting held down in 1D Basement, DPI [Department of Public Information] and something called the Malko Investment Group. And since I googled Malko Investment Group and nothing came up, I sent him an e-mail and asked what is this entity and why is this meeting being held in the UN? And I wanted to reiterate to you, why would DPI be having a meeting in a UN meeting room with an investment group and particularly one that doesn't… that's either misnamed on the sign or doesn't exist at all?
Deputy Spokesman: I'm not aware of the circumstances of the meeting. I will check with DPI, what they have to say about that. But, at this stage, I'm not… I'm not aware whether they're the sponsor of that… of that particular meeting or not.
Inner City Press: There's a picture of the sign. I mean, I wrote to you.
Deputy Spokesman: I'm not aware of the details of whether they're the actual sponsors. Sometimes meetings are set up by Member States’ organizations. We'd have to check.
Haq did not return with any answer from DPI. From the prosecutor's new letter:
"in an email dated on or about March 12, 2010, an individual affiliated with the State Council Information Office, an entity of the PRC government, sent an email to a business associate of Ng, containing a draft letter (in Chinese) for Ng to sign or approve. According to a draft translation prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), the letter, which began with Ng introducing himself as a member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (“CPPCC”), a political advisory body, and as the “Chairman of the Board of the United Nations South South News,” stated in pertinent part:
[quote] my greatest wish is to fairly and objectively report the social development, religion, culture, and ideology of China through the South South News, a global media platform authorized by the UN, to display China’s soft power, counter malicious, distorted news by anti-China forces, and let the whole world hear a true voice that comes from China to understand the real China. . . .
. . . I will select suitable regions in China to establish a South South Cooperation Organization International Conference Center and a South South News Network Media Production Center as a base of operations for South South News.
Hope that the plan to establish two centers and the development of South South News in China can obtain strong support from the government of China. [unquote]
As the Court is aware, South South News, the entity described in the above email, is the conduit through which the Government alleges that defendants Ng and Jeff C. Yin funneled some of their bribe and money laundering payments.”
So it says South South News was “authorized” by the UN; the prosecution says Ng and Yin used South South News as a conduit for bribery in the UN. And as of July 8, South South News still has its UN official from Ban Ki-moon as Inner City Press while investigating it was evicted and is now restricted to only cover events on the UN Conference Building's second floor -- ECOSOC and the Trusteeship Council Chambers, the General Assembly and General Assembly President's office -- with one of Ban Ki-moon's minders. This is Ban's UN.
From the UN's June 29 transcript:
Inner City Press: Monday down in… in Federal Court, there was a hearing for Mr. Ng Lap Seng in the ongoing case, and Assistant District Attorney [Daniel] Richenthal basically widened the case and said they're going to be… there's more things they're looking at as to Ng Lap Seng, and he also described in more detail a, quote, conduit of bribery taking place within the UN. And I wanted to know, since you've said you're monitoring it, what is the UN's response to the new information that was presented on Monday?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, we are aware of the latest information, and, as I've pointed out, the situation of South-South News is under review. It continues to be under review, but certainly, any new information is useful in light of that.
On April 16, at Ban's and his USG Cristina Gallach's direction, Inner City Press' long time UN office in S-303 was evicted and five boxes of files were dumped onto First Avenue. Video here and here.
On April 20, the Free UN Coalition for Access sign on S-303 was removed (photo here) without the consent of Inner City Press' office mate, also a FUNCA member, who was told that the lock was being changed, presumably to sell the office to someone else. Inner City Press immediately objected to MALU, the DSG, Chef de Cabinet and Spokesman, putting them on notice.
And lo and behold it was given to a former UNCA president who rarely comes to the UN, never asks questions, from Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom.
South South News' founding is described in the John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng indictment; it is portrayed through gauze in the OIOS audit. The name South South News has appeared in the Panama Papers.
For now, another UN example. To deliver "personal" invitations to the South South Awards, which USG Gallach attended in September 2015, South South News needed access to the UN during the September High Level week. So, Inner City Press is informed, South South News personnel got D or Diplomat passes through Lorenzo's Dominican Republic mission to the UN. Back, indeed.
Here are an initial two of many photographs of that event, these by Luiz Rampelotto of Europa Newswire via Facebook, including one of now indicted Vivian Wang of South South News with Mrs. Ban
Here's from South South News' press release:
"It is disgraceful that a few independent journalists are exhibiting a lack of professionalism and irresponsibility by attacking everything and anyone they believe is linked to this case. This is often done by insinuation, guilt by association and baseless assumptions that disparage many innocent people and organizations. Irresponsible assumptions, fact-twisting and misinformation serve to distort the perception of the situation, while affecting our hard work and the work of many innocent people who have absolutely nothing to do with this case.
These types of attacks are counterproductive and unprofessional. We believe these attacks reflect poorly on the integrity of the profession of journalism as a whole. Not to justify any illegal activities, but all sorts of organizations worldwide have been victims of unscrupulous people, as have other organizations facing similar circumstances.
We as employees will defend our hard and honest work and we will defend the commitment to our goals and objectives of producing quality journalism to inform about these important issues. This hard-earned reputation has been tainted by some unscrupulous acts. Many media and administrative professionals have proudly worked for South-South News and can attest to the integrity of our media operation.
This is a complex case in which many players from different organizations and events have been implicated, as detailed in the Government’s complaint. It is working its way through the United States judiciary system, as it well should. If you have questions regarding the people mentioned in the US Government complaint, you should contact their legal representatives directly.
Again, South-South News is continuing its professional day-to-day functions by providing some of the most comprehensive, high-quality coverage of the UN and disseminating information on global development issues."
The same indicted Vivian Wang of South South News with David Ng Lap Seng at the same UNCA event
On this, Inner City Press on January 29 sought to cover an UNCA event held in the UN Press Briefing Room, which was nowhere listed as closed. On February 19 Gallach, without recusing herself, unilaterally deactivated Inner City Press UN residential correspondents pass, and had Inner City Press' reporter physically thrown out on First Avenue without coat or passport. Audio here.
This is called retaliation. On the afternoon of April 12, Inner City Press while with another colleague asked Ban about Gallach's orders.
"That is not my decision," Ban said quickly. He was and is aware; the ouster and censorship serve him, but he says it is not his decision.
On the evening of April 12 Gallach ordered the final eviction of all of Inner City Press' investigative files on Saturday, April 16 at 10 am.
Here is some of what the OIOS audit says, about USG Gallach:
"37. On 30 June 2015, Global Sustainability Foundation sponsored an exhibition titled “The Transformative Power of Art” in the visitors’ lobby at United Nations Headquarters. This exhibition was curated by an Italian artist, whose works were displayed along with the works of other artists participating in one of his workshops.
38. Exhibitions in publicly accessible areas at Headquarters are governed by the Secretary General’s Bulletin ST/SGB/2008/6, which stipulates, inter alia, as follows:
(a) The United Nations Exhibits Committee, which is an interdepartmental body of the Secretariat chaired by the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information [Cristina Gallach] is the standing body that reviews and authorizes such exhibitions;
(b) Any proposal originating from an NGO or foundation must be accompanied by a written communication of support from a Secretariat department or office, a separately administered organ or programme of the United Nations, an organization of the United Nations system or a permanent or observer mission to the United Nations;
(c) Exhibit proposals focusing on a specific individual, or originating from a single artist, shall not be permitted;
(d) The Exhibits Committee may, at its discretion, reject a proposal for an exhibit in part or in its entirety, or require the elimination or alteration of any part thereof; and
(e) The secretariat of the Exhibits Committee shall inform the Assistant Secretary General, Office of Central Support Services, of the authorization granted for a proposed exhibit.39. OIOS noted that the exhibition held of 30 June 2015 was not in compliance with these provisions. The Exhibits Committee did not authorize the exhibition because it did not receive a proposal in accordance with (b) above. The Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly informed the Exhibits Committee of the President’s decision to host a series of major cultural events, which included an exhibition, reception, and concert. The Committee informed the Office of the President that the exhibition was not in accordance with the regulations for exhibits in publicly accessible areas at Headquarters, but the Office of the President decided to proceed with the exhibition anyway. Therefore, the Exhibits Committee did not accept, reject or alter the “proposal”.
40. OIOS notes that the Exhibits Committee only had an advisory role in the matter, and in the circumstances described, it could not have possibly prevented the staging of the event. However, considering that the exhibition was attended by the Secretary-General and other senior Secretariat staff despite its non-compliance with the Secretary-General’s bulletin on exhibits, the perception that the NGO was given preferential treatment or favour (that too without performing any due diligence checks) could have an adverse impact on the Organization’s reputation. This risk is aggravated by the allegations in the criminal complaint against Sun Kian Ip group, with whom this NGO is affiliated."
While Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said this audit will not be made public until April 22, on April 6 as a full text exclusive Inner City Press published the audit while noting affiliates the UN audit omitted, and portions of the audit that some involved seem to be trying to cover up, including not only as to the Department of Public Information, but also the Global Compact and other back-doors into the UN, including but not limited to "Friends of the UN."
Beyond the Under Secretary General of the Department of Public Information's responsibility for exhibits in the Visitor's Lobby such as the one indicted Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation held on June 30, 2015, she was also in charge when GSF was allowed, without any due diligence, to on March 25, 2015 sponsor an event entitled "Unveiling of the 'Ark of Return' Permanent Memorial." Audit at Paragraph 20 (b).
Inner City Press asked the UN about DPI's engagement with the Global Sustainability Foundation around the Ark of Return in October 2015. To be diplomatic, this should have led to / required a recusal.
To be diplomatic, on April 8 this is what Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: this OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] audit, I obtained it, published it and I want to ask just for today, two specific questions about it. One is, it talks about funds going to this thing called UNPAN, which I've heard of, but it seems to be pretty obscure. And in looking at its website, it claims to be publishing articles they say were published in December 2016, which hasn't actually occurred yet. So, there's something a little… What's been done on the recommendations as to… to UNPAN and the use of its name by the entities that were audited....
Spokesman: The recommend… the audit, I think, as all of you have seen now, includes recommendations and includes the status of those recommendations, and we're following through with them.
Inner City Press: I'd asked Farhan [Haq] yesterday about the 30 June 2015 event in the Visitor's Lobby, which has a section of the whole audit about DPI [Department of Public Information] being in charge of it, not doing it. I want to ask you about another event, which was 25 March, this unveiling of the Ark of Return permit memorial, which they said was no due diligence done of the Global Sustainability Foundation. It seems like, in this audit, they make these two findings about DPI, these two events, but it's only looking at it, I guess, institutionally. As I've asked you, when Global Sustainability Foundation was founded in this building, a senior adviser of the Secretary-General and his spouse were present…
Spokesman: I mean, I think…
Inner City Press: Does this audit look at individuals or only entities…?
Spokesman: The audit looks at… looked at the systems. When there are issues related to individuals, further investigations are being done.
Inner City Press: Right. But, it seems like they only mention the individuals that were in the criminal complaint. There was nothing…
Spokesman: You know, the audit… I think the audit speaks for itself and outlines how we're following up with it.
There is a need for follow up.
The audit cites Ng's Interntional Organization for South South Cooperation's engagements with, or capture of, the UN agency UNPAN, the UN Public Administration Network. A visit on April 8, 2016 toUNPAN's website finds them featuring articles they say were publishd in December 2016 - that is, in the future. Ironically, the article(s) address the topic of corruption. That is today's UN.
The audit for example does purport to cover South South News, but not the big money South South Awards held in September 2015 at the Waldorf Astoria including the Under Secretary General of the Department of Public Information (DPI) Cristina Gallach.
(Inner City Press in October 2015 questioned Ms. Gallach about her participation in the South South Awards, video here. On February 19, 2016 Gallach ordered Inner City Press to leave its long time office and stripped its Resident Correspondent accreditation, without once speaking to it. This is the subject of an April 5 letter to Ban Ki-moon from the Government Accountability Project, demanding that this “crude and heavy handed” retaliation be reversed, watch this site.)
On April 7, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq a first round of questions about some of the limitations of the audio,video here,
UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I've now obtained and published this OIOS audit of selected NGOs and related entity that you said will come out on 22 April. And there's different things I want to ask you about it, but main thing I want to ask about is, there's an entire section that runs from paragraph 37 through paragraph 40 that it's about an exhibit they say was improperly held in the Visitor's Lobby on 30 June 2015. And it goes through a lot of detail, and it says that the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information is in charge of the exhibits committee and, I guess, in charge of the space. And somehow, this exhibit was held in violation of a number of the rules that apply to it. What I'm wondering is, what is the response? Obviously, it seems like you guys have had access to this audit even before it was sent to Member States. What is the thinking… the way they walk through it is they say… it seems strange. If she's in charge of the space and the exhibit took place without complying with the rules, what is the response to her responsibility for that? And what steps have been taken? The audit doesn't say that any steps have yet been taken to address that.
Deputy Spokesman Haq: Well, with regard to the specific cases referred to in the audit, actions being taken to determine responsibility and any follow-up and any measures that may be deemed appropriate. And so, we'll continue to study that.
Inner City Press: And who decides? In getting the audit, there obviously is a long section about South-South News, but I noticed that a related entity of which there's been a lot of coverage is South-South Awards. And it's unclear, it's not mentioned once in here. And this is something that… I mean, the Secretary-General received the South-South Award. This is an entity that's absolutely connected to Ng Lap Seng and Frank Lorenzo et al. So, the question is, who… maybe that's OIOS, but who decided on the scope of this audit, the date that it would start, 1 January 2012, and the exclusion of… of… one of the things that people covering this scandal have focused on are these glitzy events in the Waldorf. The Under-Secretary-General of DPI did attend in September, but prior to that, Ms. [Susana] Malcorra took an award for Ban [Ki-moon]. Why is this not in the audit? And will there be an audit of South-South Awards going forward?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: I think the audit is what it is. It's prepared by the professional people in the Office of Internal Oversight who deal with audits. And you can evaluate the results for yourself.
Inner City Press: And just one other thing I wanted to ask about, because I know I'd asked Stéphane [Dujarric] and you, going back to October, about the inclusion of South-South News content in UN Television archives. And, eventually, you came back with this answer that it was due to Habitat. And I just… I've pointed out to you that there's a number of things that have nothing to do with Habitat, a number of inclusions that you just search UNTV for "South-South News". But, I do notice in this audit that there is a reference to South-South News and Habitat. So, I wanted to know, was this finding that you said of people looking into how it got in there, was it basically just taken from reading the audit, or was there a… a… a… an analysis, either by your office or DPI, of how the many other inclusions of South-South News and UNTV archives took place?
Deputy Spokesman: No, our office had checked with DPI. That was prior to us knowing about the results of the audit.
Similarly, using timing as a basis of omission, by stopping the audit at January 1, 2012, OIOS did not address the issue of Ng's South South News getting a photo op directly with Ban Ki-moon in December 2011 at the UN Correspondents Association ball at Cipriani's 42nd Street after giving money to UNCA including for a two page ad spread in UNCA's “ball book.”
While Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq allowed four UNCA board members from Reuters, France 24 and Agence France Presse to seek to rebut this including by directly addressing Inner City Press in the noon briefing on April 6, the cut-off at January 1, 2012 is problematic, especially as related to Ban Ki-moon himself.
The audit goes out of its way to say that Ban's Executive Office of the Secretary General did not know when a letter to it was modified to add the name of Ng's firm and of South South News. How is that possible? And again, why was Ban's direct dealing with Ng cut out from the audit by a matter of days?
Many of the irregularities in the audit are things first reported by Inner City Press, such as Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation funding the UN's slavery memorial, including an engagement with Gallach's DPI which even the audit criticizes while DPI tries to deny.
Undeniable is that Gallach chaired the UN Exhibits Committee which allowed the “Transformative Power of Art” exhibit on June 30, 2015.
How does Gallach's no due process ouster of Inner City Press on February 19, 2016, when Inner City Press was thrown into the street and its laptop on the sidewalk by eight UN guards, look now that the audit is out? Even with the audit inexplicably omitting the South South Awards -- Ban Ki-moon got one of the awards -- the audit chides DPI for lack of due diligence for its slavery event, and Gallach as chair of the Exhibit Committee which allowed the Jun 30, 2015 “Transformative Power of Art” exhibit.
Gallach, who was questioned by Inner City Press about her role at the South South Awards with Frank Lorenzo, had a conflict of interest and should never have been near the decision to thrown Inner City Press out of the UN.
That decision must be reversed, as the Government Accountability Project has asked Ban, even before Inner City Press published the specifics of the audit.
Courthouse News Service of April 6 reports on GAP's first letter:
"The Government Accountability Project complained about Lee's fallout in a Feb. 26 letter to the U.S. Permanent Mission of the United Nations.
'The action targeted Matthew Lee alone, and appears to be retaliatory in response to independent, critical journalism,' wrote Beatrice Edwards, the project's international program director.
UNCA, the group whose meeting Lee got in trouble for recording, has denied the appearance of unfairness. 'UNCA stands for press freedom and vehemently defends rights of journalists at the UN and around the world,' the statement says."
Really? Where? It was the Free UN Coalition for Access asking this month about the UN requiring minders, not only in UN Headquarters but also in South Sudan. The Courthouse News continues:
"Lee blasted what he described as 'post-hoc' justifications for his ouster, which he compared to a Franz Kafka novel. 'Initially, they tried to say that I secretly filmed a closed meeting,' he said.
'That's fallen apart because the meeting wasn't recorded as closed.' Lee laughed off allegations that he entered a restricted area to secretly film the meeting, which he broadcast via a popular web-casting platform. 'It's hard to say that a Periscope live-streaming with my arms up is secret,' he said.
By downgrading his residential correspondent credentials to a second-tier status, the U.N. has restricted Lee's freedom of movement, forced him to be chaperoned by a minder."
That's right, a UN minder courtesy of UN Communications chief Cristina Gallach and ultimately, Ban Ki-moon. In terms of violations, and cover up, see Paragraphs 37 through 40 of the OIOS audit.
OIOS Audit of Ng & South South News, OIOS Cut Out Ban Photo Op with Ng at UNCA Ball by Matthew Russell Lee
Inner City Press on April 5 asked if Ng's World Harmony Foundation is still part of the UN Global Compact; deputy spokesperson Haq said he would check but never came back with an answer. On April 6 Inner City Press asked again and Haq said yes - now we see it is confirmed and criticized in the audit.
Worse while Inner City Press from October 2015 on asked Dujarric and Haq how South South News got its content in the UNTV archives run by Gallach's DPI, Haq belatedly mentioned only one use, connected to HABITAT. Now we see the HABITAT - South South News interaction is listed in the audit, which it seems Haq consulted before answering (and whatever else he did with the audit).
But why didn't OIOS look into South South News' OTHER inclusions in DPI's archives of UNTV?
And, a July 11 question: why will DPI's UNTV stop distributing the July 12 Next SG debate ten days after it is over, ceding the right entirely to a private corporation? We'll have more on this.