Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Amid Egypt Media Law and Arrest of Hussain, Gallach Breaks Rules For Sisi's Akhbar al Yom

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 26 -- As the Egyptian government stepped up its crackdown on the media, expelling Liliane Daoud after arresting Yahia Galash and now Azza Soliman, the Sisi-supporting media stayed quiet or participated. 
The silence is deafening from Akhbar al Yom to which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his communications chief Cristina Gallach are ghoulishly giving the long time UN work space of critical Inner City Press. Swiss Radio here.
Now Egypt has arrested producer Mahmoud Hussain, accusing him of “provoking sedition, incitement against the state, and spreading chaos through broadcasting false news." 
And on December 26, it emerged that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will have the right to pick the chairman and members of the new Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media.
But UN Department of Public Information chief Cristina Gallach, who consonantly evicted the investigative Press without a single conversation or opportunity to be heard, is rewarding Egyptian state media and violating the UN's own stated rules.
Ban's spokespeople have called any questioning of the UN's violation of its own rules for this Egyptian state media an "attack on your colleagues" which they will not answer. See here.
The UN of Gallach and Ban is giving Inner City Press' long time office to this Egyptian state media, whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef rarely even comes to the UN and never asks questions. That's the point - that's what ban and Gallach want to reward and promote. Sanaa Youssef does not comply with the UN's stated rules; her only qualification is being a past president of the UN Correspondents Association, which sold access to Ban on December 16 for $1,200 and whose tuxedo-ed thugs came out and smashed Inner City Press' Periscope-broadcasting camera, video here. We'll have more on this.
  When Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Haq on November 30 about Egypt's new anti-NGO law, Haq had a canned Ban statement ready. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask, assuming that the UN has seen the… the news of this new NGO law in Egypt, which would make it, among other things, a crime punishable by jail to conduct a survey or to publish the results of any survey without the government's approval.  There are other elements to it, and so I'm wondering, given the things the Secretary-General has said about civil society, what does he think of this law that's now been finally approved by the Egyptian Parliament?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General reiterates the important role civil society and NGOs play in helping countries meet both developmental and civic objectives.  He's, therefore, concerned about the possible effects of the new law on NGOs reportedly now approved by the Egyptian Parliament.

He recalls that the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association considered that the law appeared to be drafted to curtail civil society's ability to operate and to stifle their ability to freely express themselves.

The Secretary-General urges the authorities to ensure that civil society can work without undue restrictions and exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms for the benefit of all Egyptian society.
   Oh. Now from CPJ, which has done nothing on censorship in and by the UN and continuing targeted restrictions on the Press from covering the UN General Assembly, this, on the:
"conviction of three leaders of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate today on charges of harboring a fugitive. A Cairo court sentenced Yehia Qallash, the chairman of the syndicate, and board members Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim to two years in prison, according to news reports. The court set bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$628) each pending appeal.
"The authorities are punishing Yehia Qallash, Khaled al-Balshy, and Gamal Abdel Rahim, who represent the most influential voice for press freedom in Egypt, for working to protect journalists from harassment, threats, and arrests," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. "We call on Egyptian authorities to let the Journalists Syndicate and all members of the press do their jobs without fear of reprisal."
The charges were brought by Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek in May 2016, weeks after police raided Syndicate headquarters in downtown Cairo and arrested two journalists who were inside. The three leaders still face charges of spreading false news about the raid.
What does Egyptian state media Akhbar el Yom say? And while CPJ veers from its stated focus on only the most extreme threats to free press, will its self-serving silence on the UN's lack of due process rules and protection for investigative, independent media continue?  What about this - the seizure by the UN of Inner City Press' mailbox and whistleblower's correspondence?
Outgoing, Press-UNfriendly UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is giving the long time office of Inner City Press to this Egyptian state media whose Sanaa Youssef rarely comes to the UN and never asks questions. The UN knows this - but this is what Ban Ki-moon and his Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach want to reward and encourage. It's worse - see this October 11 story,
including current UNCA boss Giampaolo Pioli engaging in hate speech, abetted by (some in) Ban's UN. This must change.
On November 8, as even from UN headquarters Inner City Press covered the IMF's austerity plans for Egypt, Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef was nowhere to be seen. This has remained true during the Security Council's meetings on Myanmar and Syria and through November 19 and counting. This is a scam and must end.
Ban's UN is violating its own stated rules, for Sanaa Youssef a former president of UNCA, formally the UN Correspondents Association now the UN's Censorship Alliance. CPJ was informed of this, and of the ouster and eviction of the Press from the UN as it covered the UN corruption and nepotism story - including Ban Ki-moon giving his own son in law Siddharth Chatterjee the top UN job in Kenya without recusal - and has done... nothing.
The Journalists Against Torture Observatory (JATO)  issued its third quarterly report on violations committed against reporters and photojournalists in Egypt. Out of a total 106 attacks on journalists that were traced, JATO said it documented 100 cases through its fieldwork team. Out of those, 59 violations took place in July, 18 in August, and 23 in September.

Journalists face charges from the Egyptian state directly related to their profession such as publishing false news, incitement, libel, and defamation. They include recently detained Hamdy Al-Zaeem, Mohamed Hassan, and Osama El-Beshbeshy. 
In Egypt fellow journalist Amr Badr, and human rights lawyer Malek Adly attended Al-Saqa's session with head of the Press Syndicate's Freedom Committee and lawyer Tarek Al-Awady.
  By contrast, among the silent even in New York is Akhbar El Yom, the publication to whose rarely-present correspondent Sanaa Youssef, who never asks the UN any questions, the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is giving the long time shared office space of Inner City Press, from which Ban's Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach  evicted Inner City Press on April 14 (see New York Times of May 14, here).
"The first half of 2016 was the worst in terms of freedom of expression, press, and media under the rule of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression’s (AFTE) quarterly report issued this week. AFTE referred to the incident in May when security forces stormed the Press Syndicate headquarters to arrest two journalists, as well as the trial of three syndicate leaders including the head of the syndicate Yehia Qalash."

Tellingly, it was bragged in Egypt that Ban Ki-moon did NOT call for any investigation of “the killing of hundreds during the  Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal. 'The United Nations in Egypt denies the issuance of any statements today or yesterday regarding Egyptian affairs by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, as was claimed in the media,' a statement read. 
  To this has Ban Ki-moon's UN descended: denying that it ever called for an investigation, while evicting the investigative Press to give its office to Egypt state media.

Gamal Eid was set  to appear in a Cairo criminal court on August 15, along with investigative journalist / human rights activist Hossam Bahgat and others. CPJ, the Committee to "Protect Journalists," is rightly alerting on this - while remaining silent as the UN Secretariat evicts and restricts the investigative Press and gives its longtime work space to an Egyptian state media. Now CPJ and its director are slated continue their UN Censorship partnership on September 16, when they could instead appear in the UN Press Briefing Room, open (at least usually) to all. Hypocrisy?

Sanaa Youssef and Akhbar El Yom don't even arguably comply with the UN's stated rules: she never came to the UN three days a week in recent years, is only being used to censor Inner City Press. In the week of August 8, Ban's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit appeared to service Akhbar al Youm's Sanaa Youssef, being given the Press office as a former head of the Ban-friendly UN Correspondents Association who has yet to ask any question of the UN.