Saturday, November 26, 2016
Even of UNGA, UN Censorship by Ban & Gallach Hinders Press Coverage With Minders
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, November 16 -- When amid Press questions about UN corruption Ban Ki-moon and his Communications chief Cristina Gallach evicted Inner City Press from its long time shared office, they not only begin confining the Press to “minders” to cover any events on the UN's second floor, including the General Assembly.
They also denied it a place to work, and the possibility to cover many UN meetings including on November 16 a UN General Assembly plenary meeting. Inner City Press arrived early at the UN, knowing of -- but not consenting to -- Ban's and Gallach's requirement of a minder. But even to get into the UN took twenty extra minutes through the metal detectors, required since Inner City Press' retaliatory ouster in February.
Once in, Inner City Press ran to get a minder. But first it had to accompany the minder elsewhere, then down to the stakeout in front of the General Assembly, where a double blue rope barrier was erected for Inner City Press to stand behind. Even so, diplomats approach Inner City Press, to complain about Ban's distant and wan management and question what the double transition, including in Washington, will bring.
The UN Webcast, for which Gallach's DPI is responsible, had no sound for the General Assembly meeting, or any of the meeting in New York (a session from Geneva, about torture, had sound.). This is another reason Gallach must go - totally inattention, the UN gone mute.
Still Inner City Press followed the meeting. A minister from Indonesia spoke; Mexico said if only there'd been more notice, more member states could have spoken. But Gallach's DPI didn't even make it possible for people to hear, on the UN Webcast live, what was said - and hindered Press coverage of the meeting.
We've previously covered how Ban's and Gallach's self-serving access and censorship decisions shouldn't be allowed to hinder coverage of the Security Council. The same is true, perhaps even more so, for the General Assembly. We'll have more on this.
On November 15 Inner City Press was confined to one of Ban Ki-moon's minders to cover a Security Council meeting with Troop Contributing Countries to the UN Mission in South Sudan, where Ban Ki-moon recently fired - scapegoated - the Kenyan commander who'd only been on the job three weeks.
It was held from 3 pm to 4:30 pm in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. Inner City Press for eight months and counting has been required to have a minder to cover events on the second floor. While a minder was provided, even so, UN Security approached and quizzed Inner City Press even as other correspondents, who've never asked the UN other than a softball questions, walked by unquestioned and without minders. This hinders coverage, of another of Ban's failures. This censorship must end.
With the UN's Legal Committee met about the International Law Commission on November 1, many of the candidates in this week's ILC election were there. Some had invited Inner City Press to cover their campaign speeches but Ban's and Gallach's censorship order made it impossible, see below.
But on November 1, Inner City Press coverage even on this meeting, in the UN's Trusteeship Council Chamber, was curtailed by the censorship order. When the minder had to leave, so did Inner City Press, even as ILC candidates and incumbents sought it out. We'll have more on this.
On October 25 a candidate in this impending UN election invited Inner City Press to interview him in the UN Delegates Lounge, and to attend and cover, including with Periscope, a speech he would give near the UN in the early evening.
But ever since Ban and Gallach evicted Inner City Press, it can no longer simply go to the Delegates Lounge like it used to, and like other correspondents such as the never present Sanaa Youssef of Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom, to whom Ban and Gallach are trying to give Inner City Press' long time shared office, can (though Youssef does precisely nothing at the UN, just like Ban likes it.)
Inner City Press was told that it could do into the Delegates Lounge if the candidate, a former UN Security Council diplomat, came out. You must have broken some rule, the candidate said -- perhaps an unwritten one.
But the on the record speech was made impossible to cover. The UN Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security only ended at 6:30 - still enough time to get to the speech, several blocks south of the UN.
But under Ban's and Gallach's censorship order, Inner City Press had to return by 7 pm, if it wanted to get video of the Security Council meeting and report on it. So after taking a single still photo of the speech rostrum, Inner City Press rushed back in. This is Ban and Gallach's UN and must end - they both must go. We'll have more on this.
At the October 24 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric questions about Yemen, Haiti, Burundi, Western Sahara and Ban's own South Korean presidency ambitions. But after the briefing -- at which the Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom to whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef asked no questions, wasn't present -- Inner City Press had no place to produce even short Vine videos of the UN's responses.
The media focus booth was taken up by UN staff. After waiting, when Inner City Press asked to use the Department of Public Information studio, the key was out though there was no one in it. By the elevators, Inner City Press ran into Gallach and told her, since she purports to not understand and claims even to Nobel Prize winners like Jose Ramos Horta she has not impaired Inner City Press' work, that it had nowhere to work.
Gallach said she would check into it. More than an hour later, as Inner City Press tried to record Vines in the UN Press Briefing Room itself, amid loud music and phone conversations, there was no response. Ironically, Gallach uses as her pretext to evict Inner City Press seeking to cover a corruption-relevant event in the UN Press Briefing Room. Gallach told Special Rapporteurs Kaye and Forst Inner City Press “trespassed” in the UN Press Briefing Room. We'll have more on this. For now, here is today's Swiss Radio and TV piece on all this (translated from German here.)
When Inner City Press went to cover the UN Security Council's meeting on Israeli settlements in Palestine on October 14, it was told it could only do with with a minder, a requirement imposed on Inner City Press by Ban Ki-moon and his Under Secretary General for “Public Information” Cristina Gallach.
Still, even with minder nearby, Inner City Press was approached by and spoke with a number of Ambassadors, some of whom asked where US Ambassador Samantha Power was, and where Deputy David Pressman is leaving to on November 4. Ban Ki-moon and his entourage was returning from a speech some called “crocodile tears” for Eritrea's deceased Ambassador Girma Asmerom Tesfay. Inner City Press stood up - and was told by guards to calm down, not ask anything.
Minutes later, as Inner City Press spoke with another Ambassador, it was told to leave the UN's second floor. This is censorship. We'll have more on this.
On October 12 when Inner City Press went to cover the Africa Week meeting on Africa and the rule of law on October 12, after being one of only three journalists to ask questions at the Africa Week press conference in the early afternoon, it was only allowed to do so with a minder.
And before the meeting was over, while former Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari was still speaking in the ECOSOC chamber, Inner City Press was told that the minder was being withdrawn and that it would have to leave, without being able to put any questions to Gambari.
Inner City Press knows Gambari, not only from the DPA post that Jeffrey Feltman is about to have to give up, but also from Gambari's time at UNAMID in Darfur. Inner City Pres questioned him in El Fasher. Why not in UN headquarters, where some had told Inner City Press Gambari is seeking to speak with Ban Ki-moon's replacement Antonio Guterres?
It is Ban Ki-moon's censorship that has gotten in the way, and must end. On October 12 Ban Ki-moon rushed by his own minder on the way to a photo-op that was not listed in the UN Media Alert, nor broadcast on UN webcast. It was the only thing on Ban's public schedule for the day.
On October 10 when Inner City Press went to cover the UN's meeting on “Financial solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” on October 10 it could only do so if accompanied by one of Ban Ki-moon's minders. Even so, it was ordered to leave while still covering that meeting - which was not on Cristina Gallach's DPI's UN Webcast -- and a UN Legal Committee meeting about, among other things, attacks on diplomats and diplomatic premises.
There is waste: Ban walks around inside the UN with bodyguards Chang Wook-Jin, and required disfavored investigative journalists to have minders. He has not explained why he keeps Saudi Arabia off the Children and Armed Conflict annex on Yemen, nor his omission of reparations from even his prepared remarks on Haiti cholera.
The Legal Committee meeting included dueling complaints about attacks on diplomatic premises by Russia and Ukraine, and Bangladesh saying it offers diplomats unmarked license plates so they will not be targets. Sri Lanka complained that one of its diplomats was beaten up in an unnamed country in an airport.
This echoed when Sri Lanka sent “controversial” military figure Shavendra Silva to the UN as its Deputy Permanent Representative - and Ban Ki-moon accepted Silva as a Peacekeeping adviser. These are the depth to which Ban Ki-moon has brought the UN.
When Inner City Press went to cover the UN Legal Committee meeting on the “Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Act” on October 7, it could only do so with a UN minder, unlike correspondents at the UN who have not questioned or criticized Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Under Secretaries General Herve Ladsous and Cristina Gallach.
In the middle of speaking with diplomats and reporting on Twitter the disagreements between for example the United States, which does NOT want a convention of the responsibility of states for internationally wrongful act and Mexico which does, Inner City Press was abruptly told that it had to leave.
The stated reason was that Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office had called the end of day “lid,” even though the UN General Assembly Sixth (Legal) Committee meeting continued and the Spokesperson's Office had not answered Inner City Press questions about Ladsous' DPKO's use of tear gas and refusal to confirm receipt of a Frente Polisario letter about Western Sahara.
Why is the UN saying Inner City Press requires a minder? Because Gallach and Ban threw Inner City Press out of its long time shared workspace for daring to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room, in pursuit of the ongoing UN Ng Lap Seng bribery scandal, and are giving the space to Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom whose correspondent rarely comes to the UN - not there on October 7 - and never asks questions. The only qualification seems to be the correspondent is a past president of the Ban-friendly UN Correspondents Association, UNCA.
As Inner City Press was required to leave, still getting information including about the next day's second Syria draft, which it put online at 5:54, here, other correspondents whom Ban favors were still free to roam the UN's second floor, including one who hugged a diplomat who pulled back and asked, “Who ARE you?”
Meanwhile for having dared ask Ladsous a question - whether the often targeted Chadian peacekeepers in Mali have been denied access to the equipment of NATO members like the Netherlands also in Ladsous' MINUSMA mission - some in the UN are implying Inner City Press did wrong by doing its job. This is censorship. We'll have more on this.
This has been going on too long. For example, when Inner City Press went to cover an event in the UN's Trusteeship Council Chamber on September 1, it was required to have a UN “minder.”
The minder, whose fault none of this is, came close as diplomats spoke to Inner City Press in some cases critically of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- including his promoting his own son in law to a top post, without even recusing himself.
While some diplomats approached Inner City Press and discussed wars and politics in their country, and the Next Secretary General selection process, another diplomat Inner City Press observed was Burundi's Albert Shingiro, engaged in UN Security Council lobbying.
Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric has refused to confirm, or even inquire into, Burundi's notes verbale that they will NOT accept the UN Police mandated by the Security Council's July resolution.
So Ban's requirement that Inner City Press be confined to a minder has the effect to making it more difficult to cover this new failure of Ban's tenure (following Sri Lanka, Haiti, Yemen and others).
Other diplomats came in and out of the UN General Assembly meeting on the “Culture of Peace,” telling Inner City Press in some cases about the background of their speeches, and in other cases entirely different matters.
Suddenly Ban Ki-moon's minder told Inner City Press, You have to leave, I have another assignment.
Not only does Ban and his Under Secretary General for “Public Information” Cristina Gallach absurdly and vindictively require Inner City Press to have a minder -- they don't even have enough minders, despite Gallach's DPI being in the process of recruiting yet-more unpaid interns, ignoring protests of Ban's UN on this issue and even outlawing filming of the protests. This is the UN of Ban and Gallach.
This ouster took place right during the speech by the US Mission - which ironically included press freedom issues -- and just before the speech by South Korea, where Ban Ki-moon hopes to run for president in 2017. On what platform? Questions are pending.
Back on August 12 when Inner City Press went to cover a meeting in the UN Economic and Social Council chamber featuring a canned speech by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and at least two of his Assistant Secretaries General on August 12, it went as now required to get a minder from the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit.
But Inner City Press was told Ban doesn't have enough minders -- under Ban's regime of censorship, his demand for minders is outstripping supply -- and that it could only cover the event when MALU and UN Security arbitrarily decided to allow it.
This is targeting - other correspondents who do not ask about Ban's and his head of Communications Cristina Gallach's links to the UN bribery scandal of Ng Lap Seng and John Ashe (RIP) could cover the entire meeting, and even other “non-resident correspondents,” the status to which Ban and Gallach reduced Inner City Press in retaliation travel freely around, to the Delegates Lounge and elsewhere.
This is targeted censorship. After throwing Inner City Press' laptop then filed onto the sidewalk, Ban and Gallach moved to give its longtime shared office to Egypian state media Akhbar Al Youm, whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef, a former president of the UN Correspondents Association, rarely comes into the UN and never asks any questions. Two Gallach staffers cruised through the press floor on August 11; they are on notice but the censorship continues.
Before Ban's minders ordered Inner City Press to leave, a number of diplomats approached it, providing tips including on corruption, one saying, I'm glad you're here. Ban and Gallach are not.
Tellingly, the event on Gallach's Department of Public Information's UNTV did not have any audio, including for Ban Ki-moon's canned speech. A topic was youth - earlier this week at the UN “Youth Assembly” in the UN General Assembly Hall, Larry Summers was presented as a champion of girls' education. This is today's UN - we will have more on the corruption they are trying to cover up and hinder Press coverage of.
On August 11, Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq tried to evade questions about conflicts of interest by Ban's mentor Han Seung-soo by claiming he was being “bullied;” he has previously tried to cut off any questions about the censoring restrictions imposed on the Press. But today there is more than enough Ban Ki-moon corruption news, which Haq will find hard(er) to cut off. Watch this site.
For the the Haiti and South Sudan meetings of UN ESOCOC on July 26, it was required to have a UN minder, who oversaw as diplomats approached Inner City Press to talk. Then it got worse - the minder said Inner City Press would have to leave in 15 minutes, before the Haiti and South Sudan segments even began. Inner City Press has asked the UN about these restrictions, video here.
Inner City Press objected, noting that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the New York Times that Inner City Press would be “escorted” to cover such meetings. In Haiti, Ban's UN killed 10,000 with cholera and didn't pay the victims' families a penny. In South Sudan, Ban's and Herve Ladsous' DPKO is covering up even the detention of UN staff, as well as negligence as the government killed IDPs in Malakal and elsewhere.
Inner City Press took up its stakeout position, to the side of the hallway; several Ambassadors approached, with one even under Ban's minder's watchful eye telling Inner City Press that Ban's Secretariat is not accessible or transparent, it's not even clear how to reach them.
But after hindering Inner City Press' reporting with two levels of UN Security, the middle one of which despite requets has refused to give his name, a third one arrived and said “Matty you have to go.” It was the same supervisor, Mathew Sullivan, who told Inner City Press on February 22 that it was banned from UN premises worldwide and had to leave the UN pass office, and who earlier was beaten up by Turkey's Erdogan's security -- Inner City Press wrote in favor of Sullivan but Ban Ki-moon apologized... to Erdogan. Now Sullivan is listed promoting for-profit companies' UN events, here. This is Ban's UN.
Back in the Media Accreditation office the supervisor said there were not enough minders, they were upstairs with Ban Ki-moon and Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber of Deputies, Republic of Italy: a photo op. Inner City Press filmed Boldrini's scripted read-out instead, and asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the Banning: can't cover Haiti, where the UN killed 10,000. Video here. UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: I'll keep this brief. But today there was a meeting at ECOSOC in the ECOSOC chambers. One of the meetings involved Haiti. The other one involved South Sudan. MALU (Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit) escorted me there, but then said they had to leave, and then security told me to leave. So I'm wondering, what is the procedure for green Ps, the vast majority of journalists that you have, to be able to cover meetings and stake out meetings, such as ones on Haiti and South Sudan?
Deputy Spokesman: You have the ability to stake out these when you have escorts. We try to provide escorts as much as possible. In fact…
ICP Question: Why were there only two people in MALU…?
Deputy Spokesman: There's… we accommodate you to the best of our abilities and to the extent that our staffing allows. Like I said, I spoke with the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit this morning, and, again, they're trying their very best to accommodate. We can't have so many staff devoted simply to…
ICP Question: Why is a journalist standing in front…
Deputy Spokesman: Please.
ICP Question: Please. Go ahead. I'd like to hear your answer.
Deputy Spokesman: …simply to the convenience of one individual. But they… to the extent that their staffing allows it, they do it.
ICP Question: Given that other journalists here can stand freely in front of it, what's the difference between these two classes of journalists? Do whatever you want.
Deputy Spokesman: You're making pleading for your special case.
ICP Question: No, I'm not. I'm saying there are 2,000 green Ps. Why can't they cover the meeting?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, you are. And if there were 2,000 green Ps who were making an issue of it, that would be one thing. There's one individual journalist, yourself, making an issue of it. I've told you what the response is from my Media Accreditation colleagues, and they are trying to help you.
ICP Question: What's the response from security? What is the security problem?
Deputy Spokesman: Security… Matthew…
ICP Question: I talked to an ambassador there who said Ban Ki-moon is inaccessible and unaccountable.
Deputy Spokesman: Matthew… Matthew, quit trying to drown me out. It's unprofessional. It is blatantly unprofessional.
ICP Question: Go on.
Deputy Spokesman: Security abides by their own rules. They do not make exceptions simply for an individual. They do that to keep the building secure. Within those parameters, we're trying to accommodate your request.
ICP Question: What's the security problem of a journalist just standing in front…
Deputy Spokesman: That's all I've got to say to you. Beyond this, it's just arguing. Thank you. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
To this has Ban Ki-moon's UN descended.
The reason given to Inner City Press that it cannot stakeout ECOSOC, as it has for ten years, is that Ban and his head of Communications Cristina Gallach ousted and evicted Inner City Press for trying to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room by a group which took money from Ng Lap Seng, the Macau based businessman now under house arrest for UN bribery.
To keep Inner City Press in this censored status, Ban and Gallacah are giving its long time shared office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Al Youm's Sanaa Youssef, a former UN Correspondents Association president who asks no question and rarely if even comes to the UN. We note that current UNCA boss Giampaolo Pioli, who lifts prosecco toasts with and to Ban but never criticizes him while being invoked by Gallach in support of eviction, is nowhere to be seen. And Ban Ki-moon himself will soon again be on the road, without impact other than negative on climate change.
On July 20 at the conclusion of the UN High Level Political Forum, Inner City Press 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.