By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 12 – The UN, demonstrating hypocrisy on both press freedom and transparency, evicted Inner City Press as it covered UN corruption in the Ng Lap Seng bribery case and restricts it even now, after the evicting official is gone from the UN's unaccountable Department of Public Information. A formal request for reversal, below, was filed on 12 days ago. Having no response other than a forward to yet more UN DPI officials, Inner City Press asked and was told, Didn't [a particular] DPI official talk to you? Well, no.
So Inner City Press put it in writing again: "Eleven days ago I wrote with several requests to the Department of Public Information, including regarding the ongoing restrictions in reporting that I face due to a no due process eviction ordered by the former USG of DPI. Other than a notification that my request was being forwarded to still others in DPI, Inner City Press has received no response, except today to be told that one of the addresses was supposed to, or supposedly, told Inner City Press 'there is no change at this time.' This is totally unacceptable. Only in the past few days, I was prevented from staking out the Rwanda genocide memorial as I have in previous years (the DPI escort or minder told me, very quickly, that I had to leave); as I have told DPI, I would have gone to cover the USG of DPA's counter-terrorism briefing today but for the requirement of a minder....This is a reiterated request for reversal or a written explanation of what the UN has done and is doing with regard to Inner City Press." The UN's response? A single line: "upon review of the situation there is no change in the current status." This was copied to UN DPI officials Maher Nasser, Hua Jiang, Hak-Fan Lau, Gallach-aide Darrin Farrant - and then others, on which we'll have more.
This is the UN's "due process" after a more than one year, ongoing restriction for covering UN corruption? Inner City Press has written back, on which we'll have more: "This response, like the eviction imposed in 2016, does not meet the most basic threshold of due process. What was reviewed? Where are the requested files? For the record: Inner City Press said in advance it would cover the meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, 2016 specifically in order to see how South South News, described in U.S. District Court as Ng Lap Seng's bribery vehicle, was discussed. For seeking to cover UN corruption, Inner City Press was by then DPI USG Gallach evicted without a hearing, no appeal, remains restricted. Today I asked the Spokesman about the guilty plea in the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe case, which states that South South News violated U.S. law. Now the Spokesman says South South News is no longer in the UN. But Inner City Press, which covered and uncovered the corruption, remains restricted with no explanation... This is unacceptable: Inner City Press' coverage of the UN is being hindered, triggered by its coverage of corruption. The UN is not complying with basic due process, as noted by the Special Rapporteurs and others. As you know, there are more than 2500 signatories to a petition to the UN to this effect. Please state: what was reviewed?" Etc - this too went to others, we'll have more on this.
After the UN's head of Communications Cristina Gallach was given a strange farewell toast on March 30, the UN told Inner City Press that the "position will be filled by an Officer-in-Charge... while the process to find a new Under-Secretary-General for Public Information continues."
On April 3, Inner City Press wrote to this Officer in Charge, who copied the request to several others to be named:
"Four hundred and five days ago, without any hearing or opportunity to be heard, I was ordered out of the United Nations for having sought to covering a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room that was nowhere listed as closed to some journalists and not others. Inner City Press, still without any hearing and no appeal since, was then evicted from its shared office S-303 which has sat largely unused since. I have been forced, for more than a year, to only enter through the metal detectors at the Visitors Entrance, and my pass has not worked on the second floor turnstile, precluding me from covering events on the second floor as other correspondents could. There are other restrictions and double standards, hindering reporting, of which DPI has been made aware.
Yesterday was the last day atop DPI for the official who without speaking to me once signed the February 19, 2016 letter, and for the April 2016 eviction. The Deputy Spokesperson told me yesterday, in a noon briefing where I asked six questions (earlier the week there was a noon briefing where from the entire rest of the accredited press corps there were only three questioners), I was told that you are the Officer in Charge of DPI. In that capacity, this is a formal request that Inner City Press be restored to the office it was ousted from without due process... and that I be restored to Resident Correspondent accreditation immediately... I also incorporate this link to the Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression and Human Rights Defenders letter: and, again, this petition."Days later, no ruling, attempted jokes while Inner City Press worked to write up the Syria UN Security Council meeting from a bench in the UN lobby. We'll have more on this.
On March 28, forwarded not sent to Inner City Press, this: "UNCA will host a farewell reception in honor of Under-Secretary-General of DPI, Cristina Gallach, on Thursday, March 30th at 5:30 pm in the UNCA room (3rd floor, UN Secretariat Building, room 310). Food and wine will be served. Please join us for a farewell toast!" Toasting what? Allowing into the UN with no due diligence the Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng, as detailed in the UN's own audit at Paragraphs 37-40 and 20b? Evicting the Press without any hearing or appeal? The decline in media access? On March 29, Inner City Press asked among other things, "yesterday your Office replied, regarding the USG of DPI, 'We will announce arrivals and departures as they occur.' Now that your partner has arranged a farewell for this USG for March 30, what is the rationale for your Office refusing to confirm her departure and the status of recruiting a replacement?" The UN spokesman replied, "Regarding Under-Secretary-General Cristina Gallach, her position will be filled by an Officer-in-Charge upon her departure while the process to find a new Under-Secretary-General for Public Information continues." We'll have more on this.
In early 2016, covering the UN corruption scandals which have resulted in two sets of indictments for bribery involving the UN, Inner City Press was ordered to leave the UN Press Briefing Room by then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Other correspondents were allowed to stay in the briefing room, which Dujarric had "lent" them. But he insisted that Inner City Press leave. Video here.
Inner City Press asked to see any paperwork that the event was closed; none was provided. Inner City Press stated that if a single UN Security official asked it to leave, it would. Finally one guard came and said Dujarric wanted it to leave.
Inner City Press immediately left, uploaded the already live-streamed Periscope video, and continued digging into the corruption that's resulted in the indictment for bribery and money laundering of Ban Ki-moon's brother Ban Ki Sang and nephew Dennis Bahn.
But three weeks afterward, without a single conversation or opportunity to be heard, Ban's Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach ordered Inner City Press to leave the UN, after ten years, on two hours notice. Order here.
This was enforced, as Inner City Press worked on its laptop at the UN Security Council stakeout, by eight UN Security officers led by Deputy Chief McNulty, who tore Inner City Press accreditation badge off its chest and said, "Now you are a trespasser." Audio here.
Inner City Press was marched down the escalator and around the UN traffic circle, without even its coat which was up in its longtime office. It was pushed out of the gate and its laptop, in a bag, was thrown on the sidewalk and damaged.
The next work day when Inner City Press arranged for a fellow journalist to sign it in as a guest so it could cover the Security Council, UN Security official Matthew Sullivan said it was Banned from UN premises worldwide. Audio here.
After three days covering the UN from the park in front in the sleet, and articles like this one, Inner City Press re-entered with a "non-resident correspondents" pass - to which it is still, more than eleven months later, confined.
The then-US Mission under Samantha Power and Isobel Coleman, even petitioned by the DC-based Government Accountability Project, did nothing. Indirectly, a offer was made of an upgraded pass if Inner City Press would agree to a gag order, to which it would not and will not agree.
There has been no UN opportunity for appeal or reinstatement. After having five boxes of Inner City Press' investigative files thrown on the sidewalk in April, Gallach is giving its office to an Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom which rarely comes in, a correspondent Sanaa Youssef who had yet to ask a single question.
Her only claim is that she was once, decades ago, a president of the United Nations Correspondents Association, the group to which Duajrric "lent" the UN Press Briefing Room, without notice or written record, on January 29, 2016.
Even as the scope of Ban Ki-moon's corruption is being exposed upon his return to South Korea, here, his successor Antonio Guterres has yet to reverse this year of censorship and no due process. On January 6 Dujarric and Gallach led him on a tour of... the UN Correspondents Association, which now wants him again in their clubhouse. (More on this to follow.)
On January 27 as Inner City Press moved to cover Guterres at the UN's Holocaust event, it was targeted by UN Security and told it could not proceed without a minder, who did not appear for over 15 minutes.
All of this must change. This is a scam, and censorship: the UN's Censorship Alliance. We will have more on this.