Friday, April 28, 2017

Cameroon Censors TV For Alleging French Control, As on Its Agbor-Balla, UN Has No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series
UNITED NATIONS, April 27 – The day after Cameroon's Paul Biya government belatedly restored the Internet he cut in the two Anglophone regions of the country, on April 21 Inner City Press asked long time Cameroonian Ambassador to the UN Tommo Monthe about it. Monthe, set to chair the UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee next year, told Inner City Press "the scissors are in our hands... we will cut it" if it is used not only for so-called hate speech but for secession talk of any kind. For exclusive audio click here. Now Inner City Press has published the 2-page letter demanding the censorship of TV channel Afrique Media for saying “it's a corrupt government” and “France is controlling many African countries." Where is the UN on this? To try to find out, Inner City Press on April 27 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, and about Felix Agbor-Balla, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, in Cameroon, again, the… the former UN legal adviser in Afghanistan and MONUC and also a former employee of the Special Court in Sierra Leone, Felix Agbor Balla, is facing death penalty by military trial.  And I wanted to know… there are also many of the other people that were… were… have faced trial today, and I wanted to know, is there any follow-up by the UN system on the issue?

Spokesman:  I will take… I didn’t see those reports.

Inner City Press: There’s also a TV station, Afrique Media, that’s being taken off the cable networks there for having had two statements in English, one that the Government is corrupt, the other one that France controls many countries in Africa.   [inaudible]  Is that a… does the UN think that that’s a reason…

Spokesman:  I will… I don’t… I can’t comment on something I don’t know about.
  Like nearly everything about Cameroon. They won't say who is their acting Resident Coordinator since Antonio Guterres promoted Najat Rochdi to Central African Republic; whoever it is is not speaking about blatant censorship. Then again, today's UN itself is continuing censorship. We'll have more on this. Monthe said people should be jailed for burning the Cameroon flag, and that it was fine to destroy the businesses of entrepreneurs in Southern Cameroons even if they were not involved in secession talk. Cameroon from the top is against freedom of speech and press. On April 25, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  in Cameroon, a journalist, Ahmed Abba, was yesterday sentenced to 10 years in jail for reporting on the Boko Haram conflict.  And many press freedom groups have expressed concern.  I'm wondering, does the UN have any concern?  And I wanted… I guess I'm just asking you again, who is the Resident Coordinator in the country?

Spokesman:  As soon as the Resident Coordinator has been named, that person will… we'll announce it, and there will obviously be a press release.  As I've said before, the UNICEF representative is the acting Resident Coordinator.

Inner City Press: Right.  And are you aware of this case of the person being sentenced to 10 years?

Spokesman:  I've heard the case.  I think any sentencing of journalists, I think, is something that is of concern to us, and we have to make sure that it is not done for… in reprisals for anything that that person may have said or written.
Which is exactly what has happened. Last week Dujarric repeatedly refused to tell Inner City Press the name of the acting Resident Coordinator in Cameroon after failed Najat Rochdi was promoted and said to ask UNICEF, Inner City Press did. Inner City Press submitted these questions to two UNICEF spokespeople on April 20: "Please state who are UNICEF is the acting Resident Coordinator in Cameroon and what if anything they have said and done about the 92 day Internet cut off in two regions, including to schools, and on the current doctors strikes. What is UNICEF's position on the 92 Internet cut off in Cameroon, as impacts children and otherwise?" UNICEF's Najwa Mekki, Officer in Charge of the Media Section, replied "received, we'll get back to you as soon as we can." Five days later, nothing - not even the name of who's the head of UNICEF in Cameroon, despite a second question to Dujarric (who has declared Press criticism of the UN's performance to be harassment, and threw Inner City Press out of the Press Briefing Room and has it still restricted after 14 months). We'll have more on this. On April 24, Inner City Press asked UN Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: what the head of UNOCA [United Nations Office in Central Africa], Mr. [Francois] Loncény Fall, said about the turning on of the internet in Cameroon.  Some people found it strange that it ends with this urging to avoid using the internet to incite hatred or violence, which is exactly the reason that the Government gave for turning it off for 94 days.  And the Government seems to have even included… according to the Permanent Representative here, to include any call for secession, even nonviolent referendum for secession to be a call for violence and--

Spokesman:  I think we’re taking things one step at a time.  I think we’re encouraged that the internet was restored.
   The UN is a failure. Troublingly, UN official Francois Lonseny Fall has not only overly-praised the Biya government, but also admonished that the Internet not be used to "incite hatred or violence" - precisely the pretext Biya used to cut it off. Today's UN is disgusting - we'll have more on this.

Meanwhile when Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Monthe's comments, the UN had no response, wouldn't even after weeks tell Inner City Press who is in charge of the UN in Cameroon, following Guterres' promotion of Najat Rochdi who said nothing about the Internet and blocke on Twitter Inner City Press which is pursuing the issue. This is today's UN - and today's Cameroon. Watch this platform.

first told Inner City Press that if "they" use the Internet again for hate speech (he used Rwanda's Radio Milles Collines as the analogy), "we will cut it off again." He made a cutting gesture, in the hallways outside the UN Security Council stakeout. He spoke at greater length with Inner City Press on April 21, on which we'll have more. Earlier at the April 21 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it. UN transcript here. Inner City Press: On Cameroon the… after 94 days, the internet was turned on in the regions but the Government has said if there is any further use of the Internet for they say is hate speech, other people say it’s in opposition to the Government, so I wanted to know what is the UN’s comment on how, going forward, the right to Internet in those areas?  You also asked me to ask UNICEF who the resident acting, resident coordinator is and I have and they confirmed receipt but have not stated it.  So I’m wondering shouldn’t there be an online site saying who is in charge of the UN system?

Spokesman:  I’m sure they will get back to you.  You can check with UNDP (United Nations Development Program) as well, but I just don’t have the name in front of me.

Inner City Press:  My other question, there are many people who were arrested during these 94 days who are still in jail in Yaoundé, and I’m wondering who in the UN system is going to follow-up on ensuring that…

Spokesman:  I would refer you back to Mr. [François] Louncény Fall and he said he would be back in Cameroon 
   This is UNacceptable and shows why the UN's shameful silence, from Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi to the UN 38th floor which promoted her and won't answer simple questions from Inner City Press but prefers to keep it restricted to minders, may portend badly, and empower or embolden Biya to do it again. So too with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Prince Zeid and his spokesman Rupert Colville never answered the Press on the topic, choosing late in the process to send Ahowanou Agbessi and his deputy, quietly - so as not to upset Paul Biya? We'll have more on this.
The UN's shameful role in Cameroon and censorship should not be forgotten. UN Resident Coordinator to Cameroon Najat Rochdi never raised the issues, and on Twitter blocked Inner City Press which did raise it. Then UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric called Inner City Press' criticism of the UN's performance "harassment," and banned Inner City Press from asking Guterres about the issue at a rare Guterres question and answer stakeout on April 19. Still the question was asked and asked again. Now more questions must be asked. On April 19 when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had a rare Q&A session, with the African Union's Moussa Faki Mahamat, Inner City Press went early, with a UN minder, to stand in the front and ask about Cameroon. But Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric had pre-arranged questions, several not on Africa at all. Inner City Press waited and then three times audibly asked, "Cameroon Internet cut?" Video here. Guterres looked, twice, but did not answer. His Deputy has been asked in writing about it. She has headed, for what it's worth, to the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington, with Guterres to follow on April 20. Meanwhile on April 19 at the UN noon briefing, their holdover spokesman Dujarric dissembled. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: My next question has to do with Cameroon.  In Cameroon, there’s a doctors’ strike, which has left many, many people without any health-care at all.  So I wanted to know if the UN has any response and also, again, back to this question, where does it stand in choosing a new Resident Coordinator, who might address these type of issues?

Spokesman:  Replacement for Resident Coordinators is an ongoing process.  When one is… has been chosen and agreed to by the Government, we’ll announce it, as we do with every country.  In the meantime, the country team is headed by, I believe, the UNICEF representative.

Inner City Press:  I know, and I’ve never… I’ve gone to their website, and it doesn’t list who the person is.  So you say reach them, but it’s not as easy as you seem to say.  I wanted to know whether you think that between the internet still being turned off and this doctor strike and the President having been in power for 35 years and being out of the country, does the UN see this as as these issues as somewhat related, as sort of a prevention of conflict issue given…

Spokesman:  I think the… the… as Mr. [François] Louncény Fall said, he would encourage both the Government and the other communities to engage in a constructive manner.
  The Ban Ki-moon era of the UN, culminating in two separate corruption indictments in the US District Court for the South District of NY, seems to be continuing, along with the restrictions imposed on Inner City Press for covering the corruption cases and their links to the UN Department of Public Information and Dujarric's office and friends. Most recently, on Cameroon, the UN's Dujarric characterized Press criticism of its officials' cover ups to be "harassment" after the Department of Public Information evicted and continues to restrictInner City Press, petition here, update here. On April 18 when the US Mission convened a rare UN Security Council meeting about human rights, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if the UK views the cut off of the Internet to millions of people in Cameroon as a human rights issues. Video here. Rycroft said he had nothing to add to what he'd previously told Inner City Press: that the situation in the Anglophone areas is not a threat to peace and security (although the UN keeps it under review). So what would be required, to make the UK and UNSC take note of it? And what about France, whose Francois Delattre also spoke in front of the Council, but didn't mention Cameroon? We'll have more on this- watch this platform.
On April 17, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about threats against clergy in Cameroon, the Internet cut and of any attempt by Guterres to reach Paul Biya, who has been president of Cameroon for decades. UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Cameroon and Louncény Fall, I found his full quote where he said that he trusts that the internet will be gradually or progressively introduced to the rest of the country.  I guess I, many people that were left wondering, is it acceptable to only have it be in institutions?  What’s the expectation of the UN in terms of the timing? And also, since then, the Catholic clergy have received these, these threats of massive fines.  They’ve distributed on Easter to their congregants, basically for taking part in a nonviolent protest of the treatment of Anglophones, they face closure.

Spokesman:  I would refer you to what Mr Louncény Fall said.  I echoed what he said.  Obviously, we would like to see a return of the internet as soon as possible, and that’s the discussions he’s been having with the Government.

Inner City Press:  Did he attempt to talk to Paul Biya?  This is a… because as you… as you may know, Jeune Afrique and other publications have said that António Guterres sought to Paul, to speak to Paul Biya and was unable to, and I’m just wondering [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  I’m not aware, I’m not aware of the level of, whether or not Mr. Louncény Fall attempted to speak to Paul Biya.  He spoke to the highest authorities he was able to speak to.  You’re free to contact his office for more details.

Inner City Press:  I’m asking you about the 38th floor.  Did anyone on the 38th floor, whether Secretary-General or Deputy Secretary-General… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I’m not going to get into details of people attempting to call one person or another.
   In early April the Office of the Spokesperson run by Dujarric told Inner City Press, we've heard you questions, if we have anything to add we'll let you know. Video here. Even that was a lie: UN envoy Lonseny Fall went again to the country, with this purporting to be his statement, and read-out here. But what has it come to? Consider this court prosecution of clergy, to try to put an end to legitimate protest. The UN so far has issued a weak, late statement then tried to move on, calling any criticism harassment and continuing to hinder coverage of the UN's deeds and misdeeds. We'll have more on this.
 On April 13, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: can you confirm that the Secretary-General sought to speak with Paul Biya while he was on an extended stay in Geneva, as has been reported? 

Spokesman:  No, I have no confirmation of a call having taken place.
Inner City Press:   I mean, I'm not asking [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  I have no information.
Inner City Press:  Okay.  And I wanted to know, people there saying, even in the wake of the visit of Louncény Fall, that, for example, a Supreme Court Justice, Paul Ayah remains, was only today, you know, remanded to remain in prison.  So they're not seeing much changes.  And I'm wondering, is this something that… that Mr. Louncény Fall looked into while he was there, the continued detention of barristers and those who have advocated for fair treatment of [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  What I just said is, in fact, that, in his contacts with the Government, Mr Louncény Fall advocated for the release of a number of Anglophone leaders and others.  So I think that's clear that's one of the things he was advocating for.
Inner City Press:  And, finally, I wanted to ask you about the Resident Coordinator position.  Given that the previous Resident Coordinator didn't raise any of the issues that you've just mentioned while she was there, is there any progress on naming a new one…

Spokesman:  I don't know that, and I don't know if you know that, but okay.  Anyway, next… what's your question?
Inner City Press:  The people that are there say it, and she also blocked the press…

Spokesman:  I think she blocks you, but…

Question:  Yeah, she does.

Spokesman:  …that's her right.
Inner City Press:   In what capacity does she block it?

Spokesman:  Well, I think anyone who has seen your tweets, I think, sometimes they do cross the line, I think, into harassment, and people block you from time to time.

Inner City Press:  Interesting.

Spokesman:  Indeed.
 How trustworthy is today's UN if they stonewall then withhold information, while continuing to block - a la Najat Rochdi - and restrict the Press which asks about Cameroon and denial of the right to information? On April 12 when there was a press conference at the UN about the death penalty, Inner City Press asked the panelist from Amnesty International about the Paul Biya government's threat of the death penalty against Anglophone advocates, including the UN's own former legal adviser Felix Agbar-Balla. The AI speaker said Inner City Press knew more about Cameroon, but that AI is concerned. We hope so - about the outrageous ongoing Internet cut as well. Watch this site.
On April 5, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson's Office, Associate Spokesperson Eri Kaneko, what if anything the UN has done about the Internet cut. Video here.  From the UN's transcript: 
Inner City Press: there are issues in Cameroon.  There are a number of issues of the Anglophone areas, but there's one in particular, which is now an 80-day cut-off of the internet to two regions of the country.  So, in the answers that have been provided about what [Francois] Loncény Fall has done, there's no reference to this pretty open-and-shut issue.  Is there some way you can either ask DPA [Department of Political Affairs] or his office, like, what's being done on this?  Does the UN… has the UN in any way conveyed to the Government of Cameroon that whatever the other issues are that turning off the internet to whole regions of the country is not a good idea?

Associate Spokesperson:  We heard your question, and if we have anything to add further, we'll let you know.   

   Further? Nothing has been done.