Friday, November 25, 2016
UN Censorship by Ban & Gallach Hinders Press Coverage of South Sudan With Minders
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, November 15 -- 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.
They also denied it a place to work, and the possibility to cover many UN meetings including on November 15 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.