By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- Amid multiple reports including in US state media Voice of America and in the UN Department Public Information's “clips” that four “UN guards” - actually, UNDP -- were injured by a bomb in Somalia, Inner City Press on January 4 asked UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about it.
Haq told Inner City Press, “We have been told that story is inaccurate.” Video here, Minute 13.
But then why is it in the clips of UN DPI, run by Cristina Gallach? And why was lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric not the one doing the UN noon briefing, on a day new Secretary General Antonio Guterres called US President Elect Donald Trump and Trumps spokesman Sean Spicer afterward cited the need for UN reform and changes?
In 2016 Stephane Dujarric, long time spokesman for outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “lent out” the UN Press Briefing Room without marking it as a closed meeting, then got Inner City Press thrown out of the Briefing Room and the UN as a whole for seeking to cover the underlying event. See memo to US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Paragraphs 9 and 10, here.
Ten months later, Inner City Press is still required to request a UN “minder” to cover any meetings on the UN's second floor and otherwise has its reporting restricted.
And Dujarric on December 27, 28 and 29 refused to answer a single one of the 19 questions Inner City Press submitted in writing at noon in lieu of the canceled briefing, on topics ranging from Burundi to Myanmar to Gambia to Mali to South Sudan to the Ban Ki-moon scandal reported in South Korea, and Dujarric's legal threats against such reporting.
On December 23, Dujarric said there would be “staff in the Spokesman’s Office ready to answer your questions if you have any.” After more than a work day of no answers, Inner City Press went into the Spokesperson's Office on December 28 and was met with only a sheepish shrug.
On December 29, still no answers, Inner City Press went in and picked up the piece of paper on the counter - and was told not to take it. Despite being paid for no answers, apparently they can't afford a single photocopy. The person listed was Mathias Gillmann, who when Inner City Press asked about the 19 unanswered questions said, “Stephane is working on it, that's all I know.”
To issue a blanket denial of Ban's corruption, Dujarric DID on December 27 give out quotes, but only to Reuters and Yonhap. Ban Ki-moon and Dujarric are just using the UN, to defend and promote Ban. On Burundi, the Washington Post of December 26 cited Inner City Press' reporting, and Inner City Press asked Dujarric a follow-up question, to which he didn't respond or even confirm receipt.
On December 20 Dujarric announced that he would be staying on as UN Spokesperson at least for a few months.
In fairness, it is understand that Dujarric told a number of people he thought Inner City Press would only be restricted for four months and that its long time shared office S-303 would be left empty for that period for it to return.
But when UN DPI under Cristina Gallach, who was quoted as not liking Inner City Press' “WhatsApp” - presumably, Tweets - decided to throw Inner City Press' files on out First Avenue and try to give its office to an Egypt state media which rarely comes in and never asks questions, Dujarric did nothing.
In fact, Dujarric has cut off questions about it during the briefing, and refused to answer November 25 written questions about it and other issues - including Burundi. In person, he often simply walks off the podium in the middle of a question he doesn't like.
Some wonder, particularly since Dujarric performed the same role for Ban's predecessor, couldn't the UN find someone else? Given Dujarric's descent into censorship in 2016 the question is particularly pointed.
On December 8, after having not provided any answer or even confirming receipt of five questions submitted on November 25 by Inner City Press to Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq, Inner City Press at the noon briefing asked when they'd be answered.
Haq responded by picking one of the questions and calling it an attack on correspondent, the Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef to whom, despite not having asked the UN a single question in 2016 and rarely being seen in the building, Ban Ki-moon and Cristina Gallach are giving Inner City Press' long time shared office, confining Inner City Press to a minders for nine months and counting.
Turning to the (small) crowd in the briefing room, or to the United Nations Correspondents Association which on December 16 is being allowed by the UN to sell access to Ban Ki-moon for $1200 and whose 1984 President Sanaa Youssef was, Haq said referred again to Inner City Press “attacking” this Egyptian state media. Video here.
As if an emailed questions, which Inner City Press chose NOT to include in its story about the other unanswered questions, was an attack. Now, here's the question:
“Please provide the list of media / correpondents waiting for UN office space, in the order in which their requests will be fulfilled, and the list as of May 2016 when Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef was assigned S-303. Please describe any and all means the UN uses to assess whether Akhbar al Yom's Sanaa Youssef complies with the UN's stated rules for maintaining UN office space.”
This question was asked respectfully in writing on November 25, reiterated to Haq and Dujarric again in writing on December 5, and to Gallach's Media Accreditation office on December 7. It should be answered.
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?