Thursday, October 20, 2016

At UN on Torture, Inner City Press Asks of Burundi, Sri Lanka, Western Sahara, Turkey & Egypt, Censorship

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- When the UN brought three torture experts to the Press Briefing Room on October 18, Inner City Press had questions on Burundi, Sri Lanka, Western Sahara, Turkey, Egypt - and even, though the UN made it off-camera, Ukraine.
  Inner City Press asked Jens Modvig, the Chair of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, about Burundi's failure to appear for the second day of the session in August. Video here, from Minute 22:36.

He said Burundi has filed something in the last day or two -- at the same time the Nkurunziza government leaves the International Criminal Court.
  To the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Mendez, Inner City Press asked about Sri Lanka -- he expressed concern about a proposal by the government that legal assistance only come AFTER interrogation -- and Western Sahara, on which he said that Morocco has engaged in torture, and has not permitted a follow up visit.
   While in the first round saying it had no questions for the Chair of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Malcolm Evans,  since he is restricted in what he can say, Inner City Press followed him into the hall and asked about his visit to Ukraine, which the UN in Geneva turned into a seemingly substantive press released. He emphasized it was, in fact, procedural. We hope to have more on this.
   Back in the briefing room, Inner City Press asked Mendez about Turkey -- he was to visit in October but that has been delayed for his successor -- and Egypt, where as Inner City Press has reported, among others journalists have alleged torture.   Video here from Minute 49:26.
Mendez said his office is processing complaints or communications about both. Inner City Press asked if he will be a Special Rapporteur again. Not on torture, he said, adding that he intends to pursue the torture issue “from the street.” We'll see him there.
How does the UN under Ban Ki-moon and his "Public Information" chief Cristina Gallach pretextually evict the critical Press from its long time office and confine it to minders, hindering further reporting on their corruption? 
This UN "Aide Memoire," which Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric called "leaked" and refused to answer questions on, shows how - as doesthis Gallach's letter of May 25, 2016. On June 16, Inner City Press was belatedly provided with a copy of the questions UN Special Rapporteurs Kaye and Forst sent to Gallach on February 25, put it online here:
So Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the letter(s), Video hereVine here, UN Transcript here  and below.
On June 27 at the UN Human Rights Council, Ban's and Gallach's pretextual eviction of Inner City Press as it reported and reports on their links to the Nb Lap Seng / John Ashe UN bribery scandal and other UN misdeeeds, was raised by International Lawyers in a formal session,video here, statement here:
"The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action was adopted under the auspices of the United Nations. It led to the creation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights the focal point of human rights within the United Nations and established the United Nations at the center of the global human rights movement. At that time, as today, many believed that the United Nations itself should set the example for the rest of the world for upholding respect for human rights. Too often, however, we have seen this is not the case. It is with regret and concern that we must request the Council’s attention for a matter of interference with the right to freedom of expression of a journalist at the United Nations in New York by the office of the United Nations’ most senior official.
After covering the United Nations for more than a decade, on 19 February 2016, Inner City Press was ordered to leave the United Nations’ premises on two hours’ notice in a letter signed by the UN Under-Secretary- General for Public Information. The official reason given was that the journalist covered a private meeting. This meeting was held in the UN Press Briefing Room, which all press are ordinarily allowed to attend, and the journalist immediately left the room when asked to do so by UN Security. Moreover, the apparent harassment of Inner City Press, which had been covering the United Nations for more than a decade, appears to have commenced after it began covering a story concerning corruption linked to the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General. While the story has been widely covered, it was Inner City Press that repeatedly asked pointed questions about it at UN Press Conferences given by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General. The timing of the expelling of an Inner City Press journalist from the UN, then the closing of its office, at the time this story alleging corruption within the Office of the Secretary-General was being covered, at best seems suspicious and at worst a blatant interference with the human rights to freedom of expression by a body who should know better and set a better example.
Moreover, we have just recently learned that the UN’s Office of the Secretary-General, apparent to justify its action, provided one of the Council’s mandate-holders false information when he enquired into the matter. The veracity of the information provided by the UNSG’s Office alleging “an altercation” took place at the alleged ‘closed meeting’ is contradicted by video showing this to be untrue.
We call on the High Commission for Human Rights, who is himself an Under-Secretary- General, to condemn the actions of the Office of the Secretary-General and to urge him to exercise his good offices to resolve this dispute in a manner that is consistent with the right to freedom of expression, including a free press, and to report to the Council the results of his efforts."
Inner City Press' long time shared office, pretextually taken and purported to be give to an Egyptian state media which never comes and never asks questions must be returned, immediately, among other remedies to protect freedom of the press. 
From the UN's June 16 transcript: 
Inner City Press: I've become aware today of a letter that was sent by Special Rapporteur David Kaye and Special Rapporteur Michel Forst to Ms. [Cristina] Gallach of DPI [Department of Public Information] on 25 February, asking about ouster and eviction of Inner City Press.  And her response was two months later, and she referred to an altercation in this room that required… so I'm asking you.  You were here.  Other than you turning off my phone, was it an altercation?  Is that an accurate statement?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Matthew, Matthew… I have not… I will not comment on your personal issues.

Inner City Press:  You're saying it's a personal issue.  This was a letter sent to the Special Rapporteur.

Spokesman:  And the letter, if you want to ask for the letter, you could ask the Special Rapporteur.

Inner City Press:  No, I've seen the letter.  
And below is Gallach's letter, here, which itself calls for action. 

It was provided to Inner City Press only on June 16, by a UN / Kaye staffer, under this cover letter: 
And herebelow is Gallach's letter, which itself calls for action. It was provided to Inner City Press only on June 16, by a UN / Kaye staffer, under this cover letter:
"Two UN Special Rapporteurs communicated to ask for clarification on your case last February. The letter was made public just recently in the report of all communications sent by rapporteurs in the period accessible here (communications of this type remain confidential initially and are made pubic every HRC session):

UNDPI responded to your letter only in May (and this is why the response is not made public online - it will come only in September). In any case, the SR encloses here the response received. Again, sorry for the slow communication. With thanks and regards,
Marcelo DaherHuman Rights OfficerSpecial Procedures Division,Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 
And here is from Gallach's highly problematic letter:
“The privilege of the use of such office space was withdrawn after an incident in which Mr Lee trespassed in a closed meeting of the United Nations Correspondence [sic] Association. The disturbance and altercation that his behavior caused required the presence of United Nations Safety and Security Officers to defuse. Thus, as was made clear in my letter of 19 February 2016 to Mr. Lee his behavior did not comport with the express requirements of the United Nations Media Accreditation Guidelines, which are applicable to all journalists to the United Nations. These circumstances, consequently, occasioned the withdrawal of Mr. Lee's resident correspondent accreditation.”
  This paragraph is full of lies. There was no altercation - the only physical contact was Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric stabbing at Inner City Press' cell phone to try to turn off the Periscope live stream.
  It was Inner City Press which asked for a UN Security guard to come, to rule if it was a closed meeting or not. The UN has separately told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it has no written record that it was a closed meeting -- so how did Inner City Press “trespass,” as Gallach alleges and misstates to the Special Rapporteurs?
   Gallach has allowed Giampaolo Pioli, the president of the UN Correspondents Association, the name of which she misspells, to come to the UN Security Council stakeout and loudly call Inner City Press “an assh*ole.” So what about those civility rules? This is a pure pretext and retaliation; Gallach should have been recused, after being questioned by Inner City Press in October 2015 about her role in Ng Lap Seng's South South Awards with Francis Lorenzo.
   Gallach doesn't even purport to answer the Special Rapporteurs' questions about the lack of due process. The Handbook she cited to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is not available online. So she makes up an “altercation,” which is a lie. We'll have more on this.

25 February 2016
Dear Ms. Gallach,
We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 25/2 and 25/18.
In this connection, we would like to bring to your attention information we have received concerning the withdrawal of the accreditation of Mr. Matthew Lee, an investigative journalist with Inner City Press, a web journal reporting on issues related to United Nations.
According to the information received:
On 19 February 2016, Mr. Matthew Lee received a letter, in which the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information informs him of the Department of Public Information’s (DPI) decision to withdraw his Resident Correspondent accreditation at the United Nations office in New York in favour of non-Resident Correspondent, a status that would be renewable after an initial four-month period. The letter further informed him of the need to vacate his present office inside the UN and arrange for a new identification corresponding to his new status.
Later in the day, UN Security personnel removed Mr. Lee’s identification and escorted him out of the UN headquarters. His laptop was allegedly tossed out of the gate onto the sidewalk. Mr. Lee’s working files remained within the UN premises.
The steps taken against Mr. Lee’s accreditation were, according to the letter he received, based upon an incident that occurred on Friday, 29 January 2016, which DPI allegedly determined was in violation of the United Nations Media Guidelines. On that date, Mr. Lee’s allegedly tried to cover a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room, from where he left after being informed by the UN Security of its restricted nature. Allegedly, no information was requested from Mr. Lee or any other written communication was sent to him on this incident, until the receipt of the letter on 19 February.
Without prejudging the accuracy of this information and the pertinent accreditation procedures within the United Nations and while respecting the critical role of DPI in providing access to information within the UN system, we are nonetheless interested in understanding how the rules governing media access operate to advance the principles of access to information and press freedom and how the rules were applied in this particular case.
We would also be grateful for your observations on the following matters:
1. Please provide any additional information and any comments you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.
2. Could you please clarify the reasons for the withdrawal of the accreditation of Mr. Lee’s resident correspondent accreditation at the United Nations?
Please also provide relevant rules from the Media Guidelines that were applied to this situation.
3. Could you please describe the inquiry procedures pursued following the incident, which led to the withdrawal of Mr. Lee’s accreditation?
4. Could you please indicate whether Mr. Lee, or other journalists similarly situated, are permitted leave to appeal against a decision to withdraw accreditation (or other such actions)?
We wish to inform you that this communication together with your response will be made available in a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council for its consideration.
Please accept, Ms. Gallach, the assurances of our highest consideration.
David Kaye
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Michel Forst
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders 
First, Ban's spokesman Dujarric made a non-public deal on January 26 with Giampaolo Pioli of the UN Correspondents Association to privatize the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29 - but not tell anyone it was private. 
Next, when Inner City Press which quit UNCA in 2012 finding it too close to Ban and corrupt, for example Pioli's unilateral granting of a "UN" screening for Sri Lanka's war crimes denial film at the request of its Ambassador Palitha Kohona who had been Pioli's tenant, click here,appeared to cover the event, get Dujarric to order Inner City Press to leave, without showing any paperwork.
After Inner City Press, as it said it would, left as soon as a single UN Security guard said to, conspire with Under Secretary General Gallach, whom Inner City Press had previously questioned about her role in the Ban's Ng Lap Seng UN bribery scandal, to issue a letter on February 19 telling Inner City Press to leave its office and the building on two hours notice - without once speaking to Inner City Press.
  Throw Inner City Press in the streets, audio here, evict its ten years of investigative files from its office, video here, then just before Inner City Press could re-apply for its stolen office, gave it to an Egyptian state media, Akhbar Elyom, whose correspondents Sanaa Youssef, a former UNCA president, has not anywhere near met the UN's stated three day a week requirement for such an office, and who never asks questions. 
To top it off, leave South South News, founded with Ng Lap Seng's money and by Francis Lorenzo, who has pleaded guilty to UN bribery charges, with its office and Resident Correspondent accreditation. See Courthouse News, here.