By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, December 9 -- UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked, by Inner City Press, about the Dutch UN Peacekeepers in Mali being visited by a Christmas figure in black-face, the so-called Zwarte Piets, at the UN's noon briefing on December 6.
Dujarric said, on camera, to send him the photo. Tweeted 45-second video, with photo at end, here. So Inner City Press did, along with questions Dujarric and his deputy have yet to answer since November 25. (And still haven't, now using a ruse - see here.)
When Dujarric closed the Spokesperson's office at 5 pm - with Ban Ki-moon on his way to get an anti-corruption award, no less - not only had he provided no comment: he had not even acknowledged receipt of the photograph.
Nor by December 7 at noon, a full 24 hours later, had an response been made by Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office. Ban had traveled to Vienna to get, without irony, an anti-corruption award, along with Dujarric it seems. So Inner City Press expected Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq to offer an answer at the top of the December 7 briefing. But no.
In fact, Haq was walking away from the podium and Inner City Press' question about if Ban's UN believes it should comply with the US First Amendment on freedom of expression when Inner City Press asked, No answer on Mali? Tweeted video here.
Haq did not return to the microphone, instead saying off mic Inner City Press must pursue it with “the member state concerned.” Which would that be - Mali? Or France, which has controlled UN Peacekeeping for twenty years? Why the Dutch brought the symbols to Mali is a separate question. But shouldn't the UN have rules about what Troop Contributing Countries can bring into the UN Peacekeeping bases?
On December 8, Inner City Press asked Haq the obvious question: doesn't the UN have to answer for having these black-face figures in the camp of the UN Mission in Mali? Haq said three times that the UN has now “brought it to the attention of our colleagues in the Netherlands.” That's absurd: the Dutch Army tweeted the photo; they were aware of it.
Inner City Press asked again, does the UN say it's appropriate or not? Finally Haq said we've made our concerns know then turned on, returning moments later to use the podium to try to discourage more questions, even to rally his “colleagues,” see here.
On December 9, Inner City Press again asked Haq to simply state what the UN's concerns are. UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to get you to say a bit more on what the concerns that the UN raised to the Netherlands about these black-faced figures in the MINUSMA base. You'd said… yesterday, after like three rounds, you said, we made our concerns known. I just want to ask, what are those concerns?
Spokesman Haq: I've said as much as I intend to say on that. We had concerns about the photograph, as you and I'm sure anyone who viewed it probably has exactly the same concerns.
So was the problem only the photograph? Or what the Dutch brought to the UN base in Mali?
It is amazing the lengths Ban's UN or at least Haq will go to not offend the Netherlands, when Ban fired the South Sudan commander from Kenya without even showing the underlying report (by Dutch Cammaert) to the Kenya government.
Following the election of Donald Trump on November 8-9 UN high officials, one of them told Inner City Press on November 14, “have been freaking out. They don't know how much is going to be cut, and from where.”
Here's a suggestion, based not only on Inner City Press' personal experience at the UN (NYT here) but also interviews with staff, diplomats and elected officials: if there are UN Departments to be cut or eliminated, or radically reformed and made to perform, they are not only the Department of Public Information (DPI) but also the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary General.
This year the Spokespeople had Inner City Press, which asks them the most questions, thrown out of the briefing room (video here), then the UN (audio) and its office (video), and defended it in a memo to the US Senate Foreign Relations Commitee they then refused to explain. (Here, see Paragraphs 9 and 11).
Beyond routinely dodging and trying to discourage questions in noon briefing, in the most recent example of waste on November 25, when the office was paid, it did not answer a single one of the questions Inner City Press submitted in the morning, including:
Subject: Press Qs in lieu of briefing today: Burundi, USG Gallach use of funds; SG's brother/UNGC, MALU, UNITAR, OMP Solutions, etc
Date: Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 12:00 PM
To: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org, Farhan Haq [at] un.org>, etc
In lieu of a briefing, here are questions for answer as if the daily noon briefing were held:
-- In Burundi tomorrow Nov 26 there is scheduled to be a demonstration against the UN Panel of Experts, in which government employees are required to participate. (Photo attached). Please before the event provide the UN Secretariat's / Ban Ki-moon's comment - and, separately, how it will be acted on under the Note Verbale about Burundian troops in MINUSCA which Inner City Press obtained and published on November 23.
-- In terms of UN Ethics and spending of public money, please state whether the trip by USG Gallach to Catalonia to get an award was paid for by the UN, and if so why and how much, https://twitter.com/BecarioslaCaixa/status/797018977289519104 and separately provide a list of USG Gallach's UN-paid trips for the past year.
-- A French firm OMP Solutions has said publicly it gets paid to outfit UN Troop Contributing Countries for UN Peacekeeping missions. Please state the UN's knowledge of which UN Missions and TCC this company services, how selected and for how much (including whether a UN payment to a Commerzbank account in Paris was, in fact, for OMP Solutions); also any and all interactions by USG Ladsous with this company, is principals or affiliates...
-- Please state the purpose and budget line for the construction netting currently surrounding the UNITAR building on 45th Street.
-- Regarding the Secretary General's brother Ki Ho, please provide comment on his company KD Power being de-listed by the UN Global Compact, and separately state the UN's role in having one of the three links Inner City Press sent your office on November 9 about KD Power's mining in Myanmar removed from the Internet.
This is also reiterating, among other outstanding requests, the list of carbon offsets the SG mentioned in his Columbia SIPA speech, a copy of the SG's speech to the Council of Korean Americans for which $100,000 sponsorships were sought, a list of who bought CKA sponsorships (for potential UN conflict of interest), a description of the process by which the SG's son in law emerged as and was named, without recusal, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, and update on the Bambari killing.
Not one was answered. At 4:30 pm, Inner City Press went into the closing-down for the weekend office and was asked, “Do you want something?” Yes - at least one answer. And, starting January 1, a new Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General.
When Spain's Cristina Gallach was put in charge of DPI by Ban Ki-moon and threw Inner City Press out of the UN on two hours notice and without providing any opportunity to be heard, she also at best misled not only Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta but also a number of other UN Under Secretaries General.
Gallach told Ramos Horta, in writing, that after Inner City Press re-entered as a “non resident correspondent” it would have the same access to cover the UN. In fact, for nine months now Gallach has confined Inner City Press to a minder to hinder coverage of the UN General Assembly, ECOSOC and Trusteeship Council.
Early on, another Under Secretary General told Inner City Press Gallach had told him everything was fine, there were not restrictions on Inner City Press - a blatantly falsehood.
Other Under Secretaries General, as recently on November 25, informed Inner City Press that Gallach told them that Inner City Press would be restored to its longtime office after four months of “penalty.”
In fact, before four months elapsed Gallach had all of Inner City Press' files removed from the office and dumped on First Avenue, and put in the office an Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef rarely comes in to the UN and never asks any questions (her only qualification seems to be that she was a past present of the pro-Ban UN Correspondents Association).
On November 25, Inner City Press asked - this time in writing - requested information about this switch and violation of the what few rules the UN says it has, as well as the below, about Gallach's waste of UN and public funds.
Since Cristina Gallach of Spain took DPI over, the Department has been in decline, while Gallach herself uses UN -- that is, public -- money to fly around giving little publicized speeches and picking up awards for herself, if only on Catalan.
Inner City Press asked about this at the November 22 noon briefing - then on November 25, a paid UN day when Ban Ki-moon's spokesman canceled the briefing but said questions about be answered, formally asked six questions, one about Gallach's rule-less censorship and this one on use of funds:
“In terms of UN Ethics and spending of public money, please state whether the trip by USG Gallach to Catalonia to get an award was paid for by the UN, and if so why and how much, https://twitter.com/BecarioslaCaixa/status/797018977289519104 and separately provide a list of USG Gallach's UN-paid trips for the past year.”
This information should, obviously, be provided and when it is, or isn't, we will write about it again. In covering Ban Ki-moon's November 25 reward to Spain's Bernardino Leon after Leon sold out the UN and Libya by negotiation a UAE job, Inner City Press' last 2015 coverage of Leon came back up. Some point to a link to follow-Spaniard Gallach's February 2016 ouster of Inner City Press without so much as once speaking with Inner City Press or giving it any right to be heard. Gallach Must Go.
While the UN where it sees fit announces the travel of other Under Secretaries General, those of Gallach are not announced (or, most often, reported anywhere).
Recently, one was reported, if only in press releases. But while Gallach spent UN / public money to go, there was no mention of the UN. Perhaps it was a pretext to go pick up an award elsewhere. Maybe Gallach should just keep on traveling.
How many trips have there been? What has been the benefit to the UN, of Gallach going to pick up Catalan awards? How much has it all cost? We'll have more on this.
Gallach was put atop DPI as Ban Ki-moon's attempt to ingratiate himself to Spain during its now-ending UN Security Council term, it has not only evicted the investigative Press without any due process or appeal, it has most recent named as the UN's gender empowerment ambassador not an actual person but rather a cartoon character, Wonder Woman.
Gallach, after not consulting with staff or even the top of UN Women, ignored the staff and mission protest to her ceremony promoting a forthcoming movie.
Now in a move surprising even to Inner City Press, its long time mailbox on the UN's third floor had the "Inner City Press" sign removed and all of the mail in the box was taken. It was to this box that whistleblowers, many of them from inside the UN system, sent information to Inner City Press.
For the UN to believe it can seize the correspondence in a journalist's box is a new low, even for Gallach and Ban Ki-moon. We'll now be running examples of the type of corruption complaints submitted, concerning Ban Ki-moon and his promoted son in law, Gallach and other Ban officials.
During a recent meeting in the UN of representatives of the UN Information Centers, a participant called Inner City Press aside and said, among other things, that if they were seen with Inner City Press they would "pay the consequences." Who runs the UNICs? Gallach.
Before Gallach put a target on Inner City Press for daring to ask her about her role in the UN bribery scandal, there were other Department of Public Information officials in communication with Inner City Press, on how and why this changed we'll have more. The UN Department of “Public” Information has become a parody of its title under Gallach, now to the point of seizing the Press' mail.
In terms of outright corruption, even the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services audit of the John Ashe / Ng Lap Seng ongoing bribery case found that Gallach did no due diligence of at least two Ng Lap Seng funded events in the UN, including involving the UN's slavery memorial.
Three strikes and you're out. Further, why does the UN need its own propaganda arm? It debilitates UN officials to think they can avoid the actual Press and do softball “interviews” with the UN's own media. There are some good people in DPI, and not only they but some of their functions could find homes in other Departments. But as of today, and in the near future, the UN Department of Public Information should be cut. We'll have more on this.
As Antonio Guterres prepares to take over as UN Secretary General from Ban Ki-moon on January 1, one litmus test will be whether those Ban-era officials implicated in corruption like the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashse UN bribery case are moved out, or retained for political reasons.
Here's the test: while Cristina Gallach of Spain, to whom Ban Ki-moon gave the top job at the UN Department of Public Information in an attempt to ingratiate himself to Spain which had just come onto the Security Council, is repeatedly criticized in the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services audit of l'affaire Ng Lap Seng (here at Paragraphs 37-40 and 20b), and summarily evicted the investigative Press for asking her about her role - will she remain?
Rajoy of Spain may want to keep an Under Secretary General, but is retaliatory incompetent Gallach the right one? Why not give Spain the UN Disarmament USG post, if they get one at all? Gender parity cannot be made a pretext to protect corruption and censorship. Busca una otra.
Sources tell Inner City Press that Gallach's previous boss and protect, Javier Solana, may try to play his Socialist Party cards to keep her on. But is that appropriate?
Cristina Gallach with indicted Franciso Lorenzo, asked then evicted Press
As the UN bribery scandal gathered force Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services of Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF), David Ng Lap Seng's Sun Kian Ip Group and its affiliates including the "World Harmony Foundation" and South South News, among others.
The audit, completed early this year but first put online by Inner City Press, directly criticizes Cristina Gallach, the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, Paragraphs 37-40 -- and 20b.
This last concerns the lack of any due diligence by the UN Department of Public Information under Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach of Ng Lap Seng's GWF's sponsorship of the “Ark of Return” ceremony.
Now in November, a person charged along with Ng Lap Seng, Jeffrey Yin, has made a motion to suppress what he said when arrested in September 2015. His motion says among other things that he was awake for more than 24 hours. Whether it would furhter push back Ng's trial, already put beyond the time when Ban Ki-moon, on whose watch it happened and whose Secretariat including Gallach bear responsibility, is not yet known.
Even in January, Antonio Guterres will have taken over from Ban Ki-moon. Will Guterres move past Ban Ki-moon's only partial cooperation -- and Ban's and Gallach's retaliation against Inner City Press for having dug into each of their roles in the scandal since October 2015? In that month, Inner City Press asked Gallach about her role in the South South Awards with South South News' Francis Lorenzo. Video here.
In February 2016, on the thinnest of pretexts and without once speaking with Inner City Press, Gallach ordered it out of the UN on two hours notice, then evicted its long time office in April. South South News, described in the case as a conduit for bribery, remains in its office, never asking any quesitons at the UN, like Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom to which Gallach purports to give Inner City Press' office.
Gallach herself must go - but will she? How, for example, would the laudable ideal of gender parity apply to incompetent or corrupt holdover official? We'll have more on all this.