By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- When outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon held his last staged press conference on December 16, he took only six questions, not only of them critical.
There was nothing on the UN under his leadership bringing cholera to Haiti and killing over 10,000 people, nor on his peacekeepers' rapes of children in the Central African Republic.
Ban read from notes in response to several, including the first set-up question about his upcoming run for the South Korean presidency.
In Ban's opening remarks he mentioned South Sudan, but not the day's real news, that the UN Mission there gave weapons to warlord James Koang, who killed civilians. Unlike at Ban's “press” conference, Inner City Press was able to ask for example UK Ambassador Rycroft, and the New Zealand foreign minister, about South Sudan, video here.
Inner City Press which on December 15 was the ONLY media to ask questions at the day's UN noon briefing, and which put its name first on the list to ask a question to Ban, was not called on by Ban's outgoing spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
So at the end, while there was still time, Inner City Press asked quite audible about Myanmar, and Ban's brother Ki-ho doing mining there after being on a UN delegation. Vine here. Ban did not answer this - surreally, he came over to shake hands. Video here.
Nor did Ban answer about the pending Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case, in which the Macau-based businessman bought a document from Ban's Secretariat and held events with no due diligence by Ban's head of Communications Cristina Gallach.
Later on December 16 Ban was scheduled to appear on Wall Street, with the UN Correspondents Association charging $1,200 to hear him. It was UNCA that got the first question and used it to set him up for South Korea's presidency, or at least a short speech on the topic. This is how Ban's UN works - or doesn't.
Since October 14, Ban Ki-moon has refused to make public the speech he gave on October 14 before the Council of Korean Americans, which sought $100,000 sponsorships to hear Banspeak.
Now on December 16 Ban Ki-moon is slated to appear at Cipriani Wall Street at an event for which $1,200 individual admittance tickets are being sold, even to journalists needing to cover Ban since he is, with whatever merits, running for President of South Korea (in the alternative the journalists would be required to join Ban's UN Censorship Alliance, like a forced state-controlled union).
From the pitch: “RAFFLE PRIZES include business class airline tickets around the world, luxury products (Dior, Burberry, MaxMara, Luisa Brini), dining for 6, weekend spa, big-screen high-def TV, and two grand prize weekends with a Lamborghini Huracan, V-10 naturally aspirated 610 horsepower.”
For this, UNCA board members are asking / telling people in front of the UN Security Council that they are expected to be there.
On December 15, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN Ethics office has reviewed and approved the charging of $1200 to hear Ban Ki-moon. Dujarric rather than answering that question said that Inner City Press had in the past attended the “UNCA dinner at the highest level,” and that it will go forward. UN Ethics? Video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I have a couple more, but I want to make sure to ask this one before… I wanted to ask you, whether the Ethics Office has signed off on the Secretary-General appearing for talks for which $1,200 are charged. And I’m asking… this is going to take place tomorrow, and I’m asking it not on my behalf, but I know journalists that want to or are required by their employers to cover it, and they were told they either have to pay that amount to cover it. So I wanted to know… it seems like a strange practice. I know he’s giving a free speech in Southern Illinois University next week. But what are the ethics or… in terms of UN ethics, not moral ethics…?
Spokesman: The UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] dinner is a longstanding tradition to which you participated at the highest levels on a number of occasions in the same format. It’s a tradition and a tradition that will go on. Thank you.
Dujarric then walked off the podium, preventing not only follow up but also any questions on such crises (and Ban failures) as Yemen and Myanmar, where Ban's friends and family are involved in mining.
Inner City Press quit UNCA, but here is a photograph of Ban Ki-moon at the event with executives of South South News -- Francis Lorenzo and Vivian Wang who have pleaded guilty to UN bribery including of Ban's Secretariat, and indicted Ng Lap Seng, here.
It was to see if UNCA would discuss the Ng Lap Seng case that Inner City Press sought to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, 2016. Dujarric was summoned and told Inner City Press to leave so he could go see his “F-ing children.” Video here.
Inner City Press said he shouldn't give the UN Press Briefing Room to some but not all journalists but that it would leave if shown anything that the meeting was “Closed” or if asked by a UN Security officer. One officer came and said that spokesman wants you to go, and Inner City Press left.
For that, three weeks later without a single opportunity to be heard Under Secretary General for DPI Cristina Gallach ordered Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours notice, accomplished by eight officers, audio here. Inner City Press' long time office was evicted in April and the space being given to an Egyptian state media whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef, UNCA President in 1984, rarely comes in and has not asked a single question in the last nine months.
At the December 15 noon briefing, only Inner City Press asked Dujarric questions. But he is sure to disallow any questions by Inner City Press to Ban Ki-moon, whether on Burundi, Yemen or nepotism. This is censorship, and corruption.
What Ban gets, or got prior to the steep decline in his South Korea presidential changes, from letting the Council of Korean Americans raise money off him is clear.
But especially after a similar appearance at Cipriani 42nd Street gave now indicted Ng Lap Seng and members of his retinue who have since pleaded guilty to UN bribery visible access to Ban and his wife, what's in it for him?
It was for seeking to cover a January 29, 2016 event by Ban's December 16 host, held in the UN Press Briefing Room lent to them without any written record by Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, that Inner City Press was physically thrown out of the UN on February 19, and had a decade's worth of investigative filed evicted out onto First Avenue on April 16.
Since then, Inner City Press has been confined to one of Ban Ki-moon's and his Communications chief Cristina Gallach's minders to cover any General Assembly, ECOSOC or other second floor meeting. So it's the UN Censorship Alliance.
And as Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq chose to go public with on December 8, the Egptian state media to which Ban and Gallach are giving Inner City Press' longtime office, while rarely present at the UN in recent months and years, was a former president of the UN Correspondents Association. One hand washes the other.
Even a UN journalist who, like Inner City Press which quit UNCA after it screened a Sri Lankan government war crimes denial film after UNCA's outgoing president - who has chosen and endorsed his successor - is not a member of UNCA was going to be charged the full $1200 to cover Ban, until they joined UNCA. So Ban's UN coerces independent journalists to join the UN Censorship Alliance. By contrast, even CPJ allow the Press to cover the speeches at its Waldorf fundraising without paying for the privilege. A correspondents association which gets journalists evicted for trying to cover its meetings, and tries to charge other reporters money to cover its events, is not a group for free preEven a UN journalist who, like Inner City Press which quit UNCA after it screened a Sri Lankan government war crimes denial film after UNCA's outgoing president - who has chosen and endorsed his successor - is not a member of UNCA was going to be charged the full $1200 to cover Ban, unless they joined UNCA.
So Ban's UN coerces independent journalists to join the UN Censorship Alliance. By contrast, even CPJ allows the Press to cover the speeches at its Waldorf fundraising without paying for the privilege.
A correspondents association which gets journalists evicted for trying to cover its meetings, and tries to charge other reporters money to cover its events, is not a group for free press.
Separately, this group calling itself the United Nations Correspondents Association will be giving its own members including unopposed president journalism awards on December 16, before an election in which there is no competition for any of the six official position. Ban Ki-moon stands for democracy and freedom of the press -- not. But that's another story.
On October 25, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: Thanks for announcing the Secretary-General's speech in… at Columbia. I want to ask again. Rather than… I may have misread your [inaudible]. Last time I asked, where is Ban Ki-moon's speech to the Council of Korean-Americans, for which they raised $100,000, just to release it? You seem… I somehow read into your face that, like, it might be coming. Is there some reason that that speech is… is… of all the speeches that he gave in the last two weeks… withheld?
Spokesman: He's given speeches to private events. I really have nothing else to add on the issue. Thank you.
How many "private events"? For which groups? We'll have more on this.
On October 21, even as UN staff protested Ban's lack of judgment in naming a cartoon character, Wonder Woman, a UN ambassador, Ban made public to Reuters not this speech but his ambition to be president of South Korea. Reuters did not ask about the day's protest, much less the “private” speech.
Reuters “reported” that “Ban said it was the first time he had spoken publicly about his future beyond the United Nations.” So what was new, given that Ban held a 20 minute public “photo op” with South Korea legislators, with Korean media (and Inner City Press) present?
At the October 24 noon briefing, Inner City Press put the question to Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric who was present at the 20 minute photo op, even told the Department of Public Information to break from its stated rules and allow Korean print-only reporters up to witness Ban's announcement.
Dujarric repeatedly cut off the question, not allowing Inner City Press to a related follow up. Later he said it's not for Ban to comment on any changes to allow an additional presidential term -- precisely an issue at stake in Burundi.
What will Ban's platform be? At the UN, he he give the top job in Kenya to his own son in law, without recusing himself. He has allowed his mentor Han Seung-soo to be a UN official while on the boards of directors of Doosan and of Standard Chartered bank, which has UN contracts. He has evicted the Press which has asked about his nepotism throughout his tenure. See here. So: corruption, nepotism and censorship? We'll have more on this.
On October 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's outgoing spokesman Stephane Dujarric why his office had not made available Ban's speech in Washington DC on October 14 to the Council of Korean-Americans but had widely emailed out Ban's speech the same day while getting another honorary degree in Maryland.
Dujarric replied, with characteristic defensiveness, that Ban's Friday evening speech at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in DC was private. Vine video here. On October 18 when Inner City Press followed up and asked how much was charged or sought to hear Ban, Dujarric said to ask the organizers.
Well, the Council of Korean Americans began promoting Ban's attendance, as UN Secretary General, as early as August - and sought $100,000 “platinum” sponsorships. Here's a tweet from September.
Here is the $100,000 pitch.
Is this ethical? Separately, did Ban get any UN Ethics Office opinion on this? Inner City Press asked these questions and more on October 20; Dujarric said to... ask the Ethics Office. Isn't he the UN spokesman?
He separately refused to say how much the outside counsel Ban's UN has hired in connection with the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case (in which Ban's Secretariat changed a General Assembly document to insert the name of Ng Lap Seng's company) is paid, and from which budget line or slush fund. The lawyer's firm does not have an active contract in the UN Procurement database.
Earlier in the day the UN's own Special Rapporteur David Kaye published his report, which included his and Rapporteur Michel Forst's letter asking Gallach why she evicted Inner City Press, and her belated response that Inner City Press has “trespassed” in the UN Press Briefing Room.
But a UN Secretary General allowing his image and the UN flag to be used to raise $100,000 sponsorships - is it ethical? Inner City Press asked Dujarric, wouldn't it be fair at least to infer Ban supports the views of the group he let charge $100,000 for him / the UN? Dujarric said no: but why?
We'll have more on the group's views, including on matter on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Watch this site.
Inner City Press asked how much UN -- including Haitian aid -- money was spent on Ban's “private” campaign speech. Dujarric did not answer, turning to other correspondents (about Wonder Woman, another low point under Ban and his should-be-outgoing head of “Public Information” Cristina Gallach).
On October 18, Inner City Press asked again, if money was charged. Video here. UN transcript:
Inner City Press: You'd said that Ban Ki-moon's speech on Friday in Washington to the Council of Korean-Americans at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center was somehow a private appearance, but I've seen pictures of it. He was in a tuxedo with a big screen behind him, and the media was present. So, I'm left… I guess what I wonder is, what do you mean by "private"? Was it open only to some media? What… was…
Spokesman: You'd have to ask the organizers.
Inner City Press: But, if he spent… the money question is this… if it was a private…
Spokesman: He was in Washington for a UN-related event, and he participated in a… in this event organized by this foundation, which was considered a private event.
ICP Question: Was money charged to attend it?
Spokesman: You'd have to ask the organizers.
ICP Question: Would that be against UN rules?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General and others appear sometimes in dinners where money is charged.
We'll have more on this.
The Council of Korean-American's speech was covered with headlines like “Ban Ki-moon defends leadership to counter Western media’s criticism.” Ban's defense, it seems, is merely “personal” - in a parallel fictitious universe like Wonder Woman. Watch this site.