By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up on Exclusives
UNITED NATIONS, December 21 -- In a new low for the UN, Ban Ki-moon on December 20 held a “closed meeting” in the UN Press Briefing Room, at noon, with only Korean media. When Inner City Press asked Ban's - and now Ban's successor's - spokesman Stephane Dujarric for a transcript, Dujarric refused to provide it.
Even 24 hours later, when all those Korean media present had their change to publish, Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq refused when Inner City Press asked. UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: yesterday, as you know, the room was closed from 11:30 to 12:30. There were some questions about what was said, and Stéphane [Dujarric] said, wait until you see the coverage. So now I want to ask you, The Korea Times… this is their headline: “Ban Ki-moon Declares Bid for South Korean Presidency.”
Deputy Spokesman: That’s their interpretation, and it’s not one we share.
ICP Question: Again, I want to ask you then, then can we get a transcript… given that other people use a slight… say, the strongest hint yet, that’s their headline. So now that things are out and it wouldn’t violate… I guess Stéphane made some reference to journalistic ethics. Given that everyone that was here while others were excluded has had 24 hours to report it, is there a way to get either an audio, video or a transcript of what was said, actually said in this public UN room?
Deputy Spokesman: Although this is normally a public UN room, this was used because it was an exceptionally large group interview. The Secretary-General, towards the end his term, is doing a number of interviews. Some of them are individual interviews. Some of them are group interviews. For example, he did one with the Japanese media a couple days before doing one with the Korean media. Because of the size of people, we had to use this room as an exception. But we normally don’t. But it’s still a group interview. And you would need to be in touch with those reporters, whether they would want to share their information with you.
ICP Question: Why not Conference Room 8? Conference Room 5? I mean, there are many rooms in the building that you could use, other than this room.
Deputy Spokesman: There are, but this one was one that we could make available on a short notice.
The UN transcript typically omitted the person self-identifying as the United Nations Correspondents Association saying “Who cares” as to how the UN Press Briefing Room is used. Easy for the UN Correspondents Association to say - Ban's Stephane Dujarric without paperwork “lent” them the UN Briefing Room and when Inner City Press tried to cover the event, it was ousted and their evicted and ever since restricted. This is censorship.
On December 21 when asked of the UN General Assembly resolution that says former Secretaries General should not be offered or seek government positions, Dujarric had an if-asked answer ready, that the UNGA resolution is not binding. (In the same briefing, Dujarric confirmed Inner City Press' exclusive that the UN in Iraq "lost" 25 guns.See here.)
Inner City Press asked if the other candidates for South Korea's presidency could use the UN and its Press Briefing Room - from which Ban's Dujarric threw Inner City Press out earlier this year -- and Dujarric called it hypothetical.
From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you first about the use of the room prior to the noon briefing. I saw a sign, "closed meeting." It seems clear it was used… or you tell me if it's wrong, but for Korean media exclusively. I wanted to know, first, can we get a transcript? Second, was anything said that's relevant to the run for… a possible run for presidency in South Korea by Mr. Ban? And what are the… what are the… I guess, how is it appropriate? If you once said that Francois Hollande trying to limit the briefing room to only French journalists was wrong, how is it right in this case?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, I think during the General Assembly, we try to keep this press room as open as possible. The press briefing room was used for a group interview by the Secretary-General, because it was the best place to do it, given the size of the number of participants. We're not in the habits of sharing transcripts of other people's interviews before publication. That's just an ethical position that we have.
ICP Question: It said "closed meeting". When you went to the webcast, it said "Noon Briefing," and then you clicked it, and it said "closed meeting," so is that…
Spokesman: Well, that's just… it's just a use of the room. And we just didn't want…
ICP Question: Why not release the transcript? I guess I'm saying… can you answer…
Spokesman: Because as a matter of… at least the journalism I learned, as a matter of basic journalism ethics, we don't release transcripts of other people's interviews before they publish them.
ICP Question: John Kerry releases… releases… they do it all the time. I guess my question is, after these… after 24 hours, will you release it? Just so we can know whether the room was used to campaign for the President of South Korea?
Spokesman: I think you will read probably soon everything that your colleagues may have written. ...
Inner City Press: if the other named candidates, if they wanted to use UN premises for their press conference, could they…?
Spokesman: It's a completely hypothetical question.
The door said “Closed meeting,” unlike on January 29, 2016 when Dujarric came into the room and told Inner City Press to leave, he had “lent” it to a group of journalists. Inner City Press called and calls that a bad precedent, allowing the UN spokesperson to pick and choose which journalists can be in the briefing room.
But for waiting until a guard said to leave, Inner City Press was thrown in the street and had its longtime office evicted, being given to an Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef rarely comes in and never asks a question. (Her claim to space is only that she was long-ago president of the group Dujarric “lent” the UN Press Briefing Room to on January 29).
The use of “Closed Meeting” for Ban Ki-moon's campaign event on December 20 is an admission that the sign should have been up on January 29. So will Dujarric do the obvious, before spreading this censorship past Ban Ki-moon? We'll see.
Inner City Press asked Dujarric, since he'd said French President Francois Hollande trying to restrict the briefing room only to French journalists was wrong, why is it OK for Ban Ki-moon? Dujarric answer was that during the General Debate week, he tries to keep the briefing room open. We'll have more on this - and on Ban Ki-moon's mis-use of the UN for his campaign.
In South Korea, Park Geun-hye has now been impeached for extorting tens of millions of dollars from businesses in conspiracy with Choi Soon-sil. And now even while still UN Secretary General, Ban has ratcheted up his criticism of Park, while remaining silent on guilty verdicts against UN system officials. Video here.
While Ban Ki-moon has been presented as a successor or now alternative, his open practice of nepotism while UN Secretary General, and the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery scandal in which Ban's Secretariat sold documents then evicted the Press which asked about it, may hamper Ban's ambitions. Ban's fast "Note" here.
After evading questions about his nephew Bahn Joohyun a/k/a Dennis Bahn who worked at UN landlord Colliers and is said to have used Ban Ki-moon's name to try to sell real estate, Ban went on this year to promote his own son in law Siddarth Chatterjee to the top UN job in Kenya, without even recusing himself.
Have candidates Moon Jae-in, Lee Jae-myeung or Ahn Cheol-so done anything like this?
On December 19, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: Secretary-General, after his press conference here on Friday, he spoke at CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), and it's… it's described in The Korea Herald as… as… as ratcheting up criticism of President Park [Geun-hye]. So I wanted to ask for your response to it. Basically, it says… it has quotes that I… that the South Korean people are very much frustrated and angry about the complete lack of good governance. They believe the trust and leadership of the country was betrayed. So is this… is it accurate to call this a ratcheting up of criticism of President Park?
Spokesman: The analysis I leave up to you and members of the media.
ICP Question: Right. Here's a question. Do you have any… so a related question. Today, the head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Christine Lagarde, was found guilty of misuse of public funds. Do you have any… does the Secretary-General have any comment on a UN international system figure being found guilty of misuse of funds?
Spokesman: Not at this time. I just saw the story as I was walking in here.
Hours later, no comment.
Add to this Ban's brother Ki-ho mining in war zones in Myanmar, after being reported by a Myanmar government website as being linked to a “UN delegation” to the country, and the three strikes and you're out threshold has been reached.
But there's more! There are sisters Ban Jeong-ran and Ban Gyeong-hee a/k/a Ban Kyung-hee and younger brother Ban Ki-sang, Dennis' father: “Ban Ki-sang, his father and younger brother of the UN secretary-general, worked for Keangnam Enterprises as a senior adviser for seven years and is known to have recommended the construction company appoint Colliers International as the exclusive agency for the building’s sale in 2013.” We'll have more on this.
Now that “shaman-gate” has driven President Park to being impeached,- her once-presumed successor Ban Ki-moon has had his own shamans during his tenure at the UN, see below. Now with his hope, the reason he used the UN and engaged in censorship, slipping through his fingers on December 6 Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: There's a rumour in South Korea that one of the reasons President Park [Geun-hye]… and you'll… I'm getting to it just as a factual question… that one of the reasons that there's some delay in this resignation or impeachment is to give time for Ban Ki-moon to run. I don't expect you to comment on that, but part of this rumour is that Ban Ki-moon will return to South Korea on 21 December as part of his vacation and may somewhat get involved.
Spokesman: No. No.
ICP Question: Is he going back or not?
Spokesman: No, the Secretary-General will not be going back to Korea. He finishes his term until 31 December. He will be, as he has said, return… plans to return to Korea mid-January. He will definitely not be back on 21 December.
On November 29, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: about South Korea and his statement that he's deeply humbled by the protests. So I wanted to know, now that he's actually speaking about this, President Park [Guen-hye] has said that she's willing to resign. There's an enormous standoff. Farhan [Haq], in your absence, said that he's following it closely. So, as he would in other countries, do you have some kind of a… I don't want to say a canned statement, but what is his view on the current state of play in South Korea, both as it relates to his own possible things but also just as Secretary-General…? [Cross talk]
Spokesman: I think Farhan already… we've answered the question. I think he has no particular comment as Secretary-General. He's expressed his opinion more as a Korean citizen, as someone who obviously loves his country. And, as he said, he has full confidence in the resilience and maturity of the democratic institutions in Korea, as well as the unity, wisdom and the ability of the Korean people to build on their proud history.
Inner City Press: And The Korea Times quoted a source saying that he will return sometime between January 22nd and January 25th. It seems pretty specific. So I just want…
Spokesman: My understanding is… as he told me, in fact, this morning, is that he probably plans to go home around the middle of January.
In terms of this seemingly impending run, consider for example Ban's dropping of the Saudi-led Coalition from the UN's Children and Armed Conflict annex for killing children in Yemen. There was an American whispering in Ban's ear, multiple sources tell Inner City Press.
More publicly, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has said that it was the US government and Mission to the UN which boxed Ban entirely into not paying a penny for the UN killing over 10,000 people in Haiti with cholera. No answer from the shamans.
Faced with evidence of UN Peacekeeping failures in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, instead of firing Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop DPKO, Ban fired officials from Senegal and Kenya. How do you say shaman in French?
And which shaman buttressed Ban's Administration's February 2016 ouster of Inner City Press which asks these questions, and the April 2016 eviction of all its files, to try to give its long time work space to an Egyptian state media which never comes in, and confine it still to minders to cover meetings?
Further back, there was Ban's dizzying about face of on a Sunday inviting Iran to the Syria talks in Montreux -- and once confronted by the shaman of US Power, dropping the invitation the next morning.
Perhaps Ban is more like Park than has yet been written about. There will be more. Watch this site.
What has Ban Ki-moon turned the UN into, as he seeks to run for President of South Korea?
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 Ban speak.
Now even as current South Korean president Park is under fire for allowing her speeches to be written by others, it has become clear that Ban's speeches and policies have been similarly influenced, by Saudi Arabia on Yemen, and by the United States on denying the UN's role in bringing cholera to Haiti. So what is the difference?
On October 25, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
By contrast, for days leading up to Ban's October 26 speech at Columbia's SIPA, Ban's spokesman promoted and promised the text of the speech. At noon on October 26, Inner City Press asked, “You're talking about the Columbia speech. Can you just please explain? If he gives private speeches, can we just get a list of where they are, even if you don't give the text? Can you do that?”
Spokesman Dujarric said, “I can do that.” October 26 transcript here, at end.
But neither before Ban's SIPA speech, more in the hours after, did Dujarric provide even a list of Ban's recent “private” speeches. Inner City Press watched and streamed Ban's SIPA speech, adding some commentary and even satire as is its right on Periscope. YouTube video here.
As noted, Ban did not address his position(s) on UN cholera in Haiti, or being pressured by the Saudi led coalition to drop them from the Children and Armed Conflict annex on Yemen, much less nepotism, censorship and lack of transparency. We'll have more on this.
From the October 25 transcript:
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. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: on Friday he gave an interview to Reuters in which he said… it's said that he said it was the first time he publicly said he's returning to South Korea in mid-January and exploring how he could help the country. I think you were there when he met publicly with the […] legislators and said the same thing. But I wanted to know, how do you view this interview? Is this him announcing… it's been portrayed as him saying… implying strongly he's running. What was first about the thing? And does he have any response…
Spokesman: I think you'd have to ask the…
ICP Question: I haven't…
Spokesman: …the journalists why they interpreted it the way they did. I think the Secretary-General has made no secret that he will return to Korea, and he will decide whatever his next move is once he returns. There is really… you will have… that's not a question directed to me. I think it's a question directed to journalists…
ICP Question: What's the position on term limits?
ICP Q: just to finish this South Korea question, does the Secretary-General have any view on the announced plan by President Park Geun-hye to extend… to two limits, to…
Spokesman: It's not for the Secretary-General to have an opinion on this plan.
Question: Right. But he's commented on other…
Spokesman: I'm just… you've asked me a question. I've answered it.
To this low has Ban brought the UN. We'll have more on this.
At the October 21 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric again for a copy of the speech - next question, Dujarric said - and about the Wonder Woman fiasco.
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.
On October 77, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here
Inner City Press: there's been a number of media outlets in South Korea that have quoted former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, who has met with Ban Ki-moon and is viewed as a supporter and ally. He has been quoted on the record saying Ban Ki-moon has made up his mind and is running for president. So I wanted to know, when's the last time the Secretary-General spoke with Mr. Kim Jong-pil? Because it becomes important to know to assess the credibility of his statement of Mr. Ban's intentions.
Deputy Spokesman: On this, as we have made very clear, the Secretary-General has spoken, he is going to work as Secretary-General and continue to concentrate his energies on being Secretary-General of the United Nations until the end of his mandate. He'll make his decision after that.
Question: Right. So he's wrong. So his ally is not…
Deputy Spokesman: That is what the Secretary-General has said. Have a good weekend, everyone.
On October 3 Inner City Press asked Haq about a political party's offer to Ban, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: there was a proposal today, or a law proposed and announced by the Saenuri Party in South Korea, which would provide, quote, privileges or benefits to the Secretary-General when he leaves here, which would include a bodyguard, office, security, secretary. And so some have raised… is there any provision for this? Is this consistent with UN ethics rules in terms of a country offering these things to a sitting UN official?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, you'd have to ask the officials in South Korea what their arrangements are. This is… obviously, the Secretary-General doesn't accept these favours in his time as Secretary-General. I wouldn't have any comment on his post-Secretary-General career.
On September 30, a concert in the UN pitched as only about South Korea's 25th anniversary at a UN member was converted into an event for Ban Ki-moon's legacy.
Oh Joon, who has spoken about Ban and South Korea's presidency, was there, as was Ban's male personal assistant and his spouse (but not Ms Eun Ha Kim.) UN officials Adlerstein and Dieng, Ombudsman and successor candidate Helen Clark were there. Some Ambassadors showed up at the top and then left; Kazakhstan, we note, stuck it out.
The music was great - but, it was disclosed, paid for by investment bank G C Andersen. Ban cited Han Seung-soo, who he's let be a UN official while on the boards of directors of Doosan and Standard Chartered Bank. (Inner City Press asked the new President of the General Asssembly about this on September 30, here).
Ban's nepotism has come to the fore, but his polling is up, and he'd headed on the road. We will cover it, watch this site.