Saturday, September 3, 2016
Access to UNSC Trip to S Sudan Controlled by Conflicted Ban, Spox & Gallach
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- When people say “the UN” it is often unclear whether they mean the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon or, more often, the UN Security Council and its five permanent members.
In covering “the UN” as a journalist, however, the need to make this distinction is not only academic.
While much of the interest covering the UN beat is the diplomatic theater of the Security Council and sometimes the General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon's UN Secretariat, or more specifically his Spokesman Stephane Dujarric and his Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach, control media access to this theater.
Normally this would pass without notice.
But now that Ban and specifically Gallach are caught up in the UN bribery scandal, with Ban's Secretariat having impermissibly changed a document to name one of alleged briber Ng Lap Seng's companies and Gallach having negligently allowed Ng's Global Sustainability Foundationto hold an event in the UN Visitors Lobby and to sponsor the UN's slavery memorial, the gatekeepers objectivity is no longer clear.
Why should the UN Secretariat, with these conflicts of interest, be able to ban some media from covering the Security Council or its trips, this week to South Sudan?
Inner City Press covers South Sudan extensively; Ban's Spokesman Dujarric even jokes, how ever disingenuously, about Inner City Press being on South Sudan distribution lists he's not on.
But when Dujarric's office was informed of an upcoming Security Council to South Sudan, unlike prior practice even this Spring, his Office did NOT inform Inner City Press of the trip or the possibility of covering it.
Inner City Press WAS informed of the Council's trip to Burundi, but not only to South Sudan. The rationale given is that Inner City Press is no longer a resident correspondent, due to the pretextual ouster in which Dujarric collaborated, which Gallach signed for and for which Ban is responsible.
Inner City Press on August 31 asked Dujarric (in writing since he canceled the noon briefings: "On South Sudan, please state the UN's knowledge of the killing of 13 civilians near Renk and, again, please explain not UNMISS' but the wider DPKO's (HQ's) policy on the use of tear gas, as well as explaining the July 11 “accidential teargas explosion.” Relatedly on South Sudan, amid reports (by South Sudan) that the UNSC will visit there, as soon as later this week, please state whether your office will be informing (which) journalists of the trip and the chance if any to go."
Dujarric answered, after 6 pm: "The trip was announced to Resident Correspondents. The final decision of who travels with the Security Council is up to the leads of the Mission to select the journalist."
This is one impact of Gallach's / Ban's eviction of Inner City Press. The US is a lead of the trip - the US Mission was asked by the Government Accountability Project, here,to oppose the pretextual ouster of the investigative Press and did... apparently nothing. We'll have more on this.
Why, as happened on April 26, should Ban and Gallach get to decide which media can see into the Security Council's ostensibly closed door “Arria formula” meeting on Western Sahara, through the in-house EZTV system Gallach provides those to whom she gives and doesn't revoke office space, leaving others to wait out in the hall?
How is Ban Ki-moon allowed to, without due process or any way to appeal, have whomever he put in as head of the Department of Public Information decide which journalists to reward with access, and which to punish, to the point of throwing their files in the street? Video here and here,petition here.
This has happened in 2016, Ban's and Gallach's last year on the job. Inner City Press, which has covered both UN corruption and the Security Council's diplomatic game for a decade, was abruptly ousted and evicted on Gallach's orders, despite an informal appeal to Ban, who said, “That is not my decision." If that's somehow true (some already disagree), Gallach's decisions should be immediately reversed.
Gallach, whose negligence with Ng's GSF is detailed in Paragraphs 37-40 and 20(b) of the UN's own Office of Internal Oversight Services audit of the Ng Lap Seng and John Ashe cases, unilaterally and without allowing any due process reduced Inner City Press' accreditation to that of “non-resident correspondent,” which means it can no longer pass through the turnstile to the UN Conference Building's second floor.
This means that Inner City Press has been Banned from covering a Security Council meeting on Western Sahara, and a meeting on the second floor about counter-terrorism in Sri Lanka, for example, and another meeting on Security Council reform.
Gallach's pretext was that Inner City Press sought on January 29 to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room, nowhere listed as closed, that had and has a bearing on the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case and ongoing story. Gallach had and has a conflict of interest and should have been recused from deciding to oust and then evict.
Why should a conflicted and seemingly corrupt Secretariat have the only voice in which media can cover the Security Council, ECOSOC and General Assembly?
Inner City Press has repeatedly put these questions to Ban's spokespeople. Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric has replied that "you have been afforded a lot of courtesies;" his deputy has cut off the questions, calling them only personal. An associate, openly aligned with the insiders, has been even more rude, see Vine here.
The acting head of the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, on orders, filmed Inner City Press' eviction and thentore down the sign of the Free UN Coalition for Accesswhich opposes these moves by Ban and Gallach. This is today's UN.
The descent into censorship and retaliation shows that there is at a minimum a need for oversight of, and appeals from, Ban's and Gallach's media accreditation decisions. More fundamentally, the Secretariat should not control who can cover the Security Council, and how. A separate body should be established for this. More on this to follow.