By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- 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.”
One merited proposal: the UN Department of Public Information, here.
After new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called Trump on January 4, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq of the call's links to budget cuts. Haq in typical UN-ese characterized it as an "introductory call” that "went quite well." Video here from Min 9:42.
Famous last words? In Washington, the House is moving to cut funding to the UN, with the same promised in the Senate. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer cited Trump's nominee as Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley - who recently tweeted from New York - and said that Washington can demand some "reforms and changes.”
On January 3, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who despite answering only 2 and one half of the Press' 22 questions from December 27 to December 30 when he and his office were paid, about impending votes and cuts. Video here. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I want to ask about Washington and also record retention. In Washington, as you may know, on Thursday, there’s a vote set in the House of Representatives concerning the United Nations. And there’s a lot of talk also of defunding the United Nations. So I’m just wondering, can you give a general sense of what the incoming Secretary-General… has he… forget the President-elect but actual Congress, has… what… what is the… the presence of the UN as these votes take place in the coming days and weeks?
Spokesman: Obviously, we’re watching what is going on in the Congress and in Washington. As I said, we very much appreciate the support and the funding, the American Government, the American taxpayers, have given the UN throughout its history. But I’m not going to go into any further details before a vote has, in fact, been taken, anything’s been signed.
Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask you about, earlier… Staffan de Mistura had said at one point to us at the stakeout that he was going to reach out to the Trump team. Then he said later that he wasn’t going to talk about that anymore. And I wanted to ask you a direct question. Is it true that Jeffrey Feltman informed UN Special Envoys not to themselves reach out to any member of the Trump team but to work entirely through him for that purpose?
Spokesman: No. I’m not aware of any such order being issued. ...
Inner City Press: over the holiday, there was stories in a number of publications but including The New York Times about the outstanding Ng Lap Seng bribery case. And I wanted to know, among the issues on which the Secretary-General either briefed the new Secretary-General or… what’s his understanding of the case? Has he been briefed on it? Does he intend to take any different approach in terms of providing records to the prosecution?
Spokesman: I have no comment on this particular case.
Inner City Press: On the records thing, I’d sent you this one.... Ban Ki-moon, I know that, during the John Ashe case, the issue came up of where did his records go? Why were there no records? Did he take them with him when he left? The Secretary-General’s records, which of the records remain in the possession of the UN so that they could be…
Spokesman: The official records remain in the possession of the UN.
As to cuts, here's a suggestion, based not only on Inner City Press' personal experience at the UN (NYT here) -- including now not only the violation of the UN mailbox to which people all over the world have written to Inner City Press but also the unilateral seizure of the mail in it -- but also interviews with staff, diplomats and elected officials: if there is one UN Department to be cut, even eliminated, it is the Department of Public Information (DPI).
Since Cristina Gallach of Spain took DPI over, the Department has been in decline, while Gallach herself presumptively uses UN -- that is, public -- money to fly around giving little publicized speeches and picking up awards for herself, if only in Catalan.
Gallach called it an honor, on Twitter, here - while complaining to a Gulf media she gives a large UN office to about the "difficult" role of social media in the 2016 elections, here.
On November 28 with three Spokespeople for Ban Ki-moon, for whom Gallach ousted and evicted and now restricts Inner City Press having refused for three days to answer a simple question of who paid for this travel, we published this, translated from Catalan:
“The Association of Journalists of Catalonia has announced the winners of the eighth edition of the Awards Press Office : journalist Cristina Gallach, Cristina Gallach, head of communications of the UN, the Rovira i Virgili University and the Provincial Government of Barcelona. The awards will be presented on November 11 in the framework of the Congress of Journalists of Catalonia recovered. The Prize 2015 has been Spokesman for the journalist Cristina Gallach, who has extensive experience covering different areas: press, radio, television agencies, corporate and media sources.”
Was travel to get this personal award - as a journalist - paid for by the UN? We are awaiting the answer. DPI sources, disgusted, say that while USG Gallach should have answered on Friday, she was preening in New England. We note again: the UN Spokesperson's office were open and people getting paid, but no answer. And lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, to whom the question was sent, said at the November 28 noon briefing he wasn't at all aware of the event, despite the link below. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: can you answer a question that I sent to you on Friday? One of the UN officials named in their official capacity in the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] audit, do you consider it fair to ask whether travel to various places is, in fact, paid by the UN or not paid by the UN, and if so, can you answer the question that was submitted to your office and… and Farhan and…
Spokesman: You know, every… if a trip… I don't recall the question. I know you sent it. I just don't remember off the…
Inner City Press: So if the SG goes to get a personal award in Catalonia, is this… is… can this be paid by the UN, or is it not paid by the UN?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of the particular case… [Cross talk]
Inner City Press: Sent you the link.
Spokesman: Obviously, there is… there are rules and regulations which are followed.
But a full day later, Ban's spokesman Dujarric provide no information, even as he said he would "buckle down" and provide answers. We'll have more on this.
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?