By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, June 5 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres did aphoto op (Periscope here) and meeting with Fiji's Josaia Voreqe Baininarama, there was a rare attendee: Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed. Perhaps it was because Fiji is the co-President, with Sweden, of the Ocean Conference. Earlier on June 5, Deputy Mohammed had been listed as the briefer - and presumably answerer - at a press conference about a more than 1000 page UN book. But Mohammed left; Inner City Press stayed and asked a scientist who seemed to say he'd been at a conference in 1946 about fisheries subsidies. Likewise, Baininarama left the 1 pm stakeout in front of the UN General Assembly before he could be asked any questions. This is also how Guterres did it, speaking in the third person about Cyprus, on Sunday evening. It seems to be catching in his UN. Back on May 30 when Guterres met with Romania's Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, it was part of Melescanu's campaign for his country to win a two year term on the UN Security Council, to follow its six-month rotating presidency of the European Council in first half of 2019 (for which it is seeking a bigger building in Brussels). Melescanu has most recently, in Istanbul, defended his country's delaying of Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter after he criticized Erdogan. Melescanu will be in New York through June 3. Guterres, after yet another trip (this time for a G7 speech on Africa and technology with no mention of the Internet cut-off in Cameroon), was back in New York, NYU earlier in the day, then with an unscheduled or undisclosed meeting with a Security Council ambassador that ran past 7 pm. In the meeting with Melescanu were Tanguy Stehelin and Fabrizio Hochschild, among others. The UN's restrictions on the Press, unlike on never present Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom, continued. But on the 38th floor there was laughter. Last week Guterres met Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister and was given an oil painting; before that Guterres held a meeting with his senior management group since after a two week trip he is in New York for only three days, leaving tomorrow. At the appointed time for Azerbaijan, streaming out of Guterres' conference room were USg Jeff Feltman, Jean Pierre Lacroix who declined to answer Inner City Press' question about France's 20+ year rule of UN Peacekeeping, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Fabrizio Hochschild and others. Earlier on May 24 Inner City Press asked Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric to "please state if a David J Vennett is now a/the principal advisor to the SG, if so why he is not in iSeek and how he was recruited and hired and, again, please provide a list of who works in / or the Executive Office of the Secretary General and whether they are paid by the UN, by a UN affiliate like UNOPS, or by a country and is so which." There was no answer. Dujarric announced, "Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will be heading out of New York for Italy to attend the G-7 meeting. On Saturday, he will participate in the outreach session of the summit, which is taking place in Taormina. The focus of the discussion will be "Innovation and Sustainable Development in Africa." He will leave Taormina Saturday afternoon." Does it take from Thursday to Saturday to get to Italy? Is there a stop over on the way back? What was in Guterres' budget speech on May 24, a copy of which Inner City Press requested? Why was corrupt censor Cristina Gallach speaking in the General Assembly Hall on May 24, and why has her censorship continued, without hearing or appeal? Back on May 22 when Guterres metSlovenia's President Borut Pahor, it was Guterres first such meeting at UN Headquarters in two weeks. In his first 141 days, Guterres is often on the road, this time including London and China and Geneva, maybe Lisbon, while the promised reforms at the UN are still not easy to see. Pahor is running for re-election and was to host a reception later on May 22 for Slovenia's 25th anniversary in the UN, at the Intercontinental Barclays. The country's ambassadors at the UN and in Washington are set to change, the latter amid probably unfair criticism that First Lady Melania Trump's Slovenian roots have led at last to Slovenia distinguishing itself from Slovakia (which is set to take up the Presidency of the UN General Assembly in September). Guterres, too, needs to distinguish himself from his predecessor. On Yemen, holdover envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed continues to oversee bombing and now cholera, spun by holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric who has also defended the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization's patent work for sodium cyanide in North Korea. On Press Freedom, there are still no UN rules and evictions and restrictions remain in place. Back on May 5 when Guterres met with the Dominican Republic's foreign minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado there was an indicted elephant (not) in the room: former Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the UN Francis Lorenzo, who has pleaded guilty to bribery in the UN through South South News which he ran. That case is moving toward trial, but the UN has done nothing in its wake - except evict and still restrict Inner City Press which covers that and other corruption, including in the January 2016 "incident" the Department of Public Information used and uses as a pretext to confine Inner City Press to minders. On May 5 the Dominicans covering the photo op were an energetic bunch, with GoPro cameras taking photos out the 38th floor windows that Inner City Press was ordered not to take. We asked: what issues would Guterres raise? Would they include next door Haiti, where UN introduced cholera still causes suffering? After the meeting, the Dominican side issued a read-out, the the UN should do more concretely on Haiti. So on May 9 Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here, Inner City Press: the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic on Friday. And, since then they’ve formally put out a readout, and they’ve said that they told… said that the UN system should do more concretely for Haiti, not just talk but give money. And… and so I guess I’m wondering, can you give some UN side readout or what…
Spokesman: I don’t have… I don’t have a readout, but I’ll see what I can get you.
Spokesman: I don’t have… I don’t have a readout, but I’ll see what I can get you.
But six hours later when Guterr's holdover spokesman Dujarric left, no read-out had been provided, none at all. We'll stay on it. On May 3 when Guterres did a photo op and meeting with the "new" Permanent Representative of The Gambia on May 3, Guterres welcomed him "as a democratic country, we are proud to have you in our ranks." Video here. There was only one problem: it was the same Ambassador who had represented strongman Jammeh, Mamadou Tangara. Inner City Press had repeatedly asked Guterres' also holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Mamadou Tangara during the time Jammeh tried to hang on. Now Mamadou Tangara is being feted as a representative of democracy. Did Guterres not know this? Or was this quiet diplomacy? In other photo ops on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Guterres' Deputy SG Amina J Mohammed came to attend the one with new Nigeria rep Tijjani Muhammad Band, Periscope here, but not Uganda's knowledgeable Adonia Ayebare nor Seychelles' Ronald Jean Jumeau. Back down on the UN's second floor, Inner City Press remains confined to minders, even on World Press Freedom day. We'll have more on this. Back on April 20, Guterres met Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Kingdom of the Netherlands, on Guterres' side of the table were four men and one woman, Katrin Hett, who asked one of the men who'd sat next to Guterres to get up and move. The previous evening as Inner City Press rushed to leave a Department of Public Information event in the General Assembly lobby before the 7 pm censorship witching hour imposed on it by DPI, Inner City Press was told, in a friendly way, to give more positive coverage to Dutch Sigrid Kaag, so the UN doesn't remain a "patriarchy." It's a good point, but Kaag like failed Cameroon Resident Coordinator (promoted by Guterres) Najat Rochdi probably shouldn't block the press they don't like. On April 20 on the 38th floor was the Officer in Charge of DPI, Maher Nasser, who has made no substantive response to Inner City Press' April 1 formal request to end the now 14 months of minders and censorship for having covered a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room in connection with the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe UN corruption case. Guterres is 110 days in, and what has changed? Not the censorship and targeted requirement of minders. On April 18 when Guterres did photo op and meeting with Ukraine's deputy Foreign Minister Sergiy Kyslytsya, his close adviser Katrin Hett came to tell the assembled staffers they would not be needed, the meeting would be held with only four on each side in Guterres' office overlooking the East River and Queens. Things are getting more and more private: Guterres' spokesman Stephane Duajrric for example has twice refused to answer Inner City Press if as reported Guterres tried to reach Cameroon's president of decades Paul Biya, about the cut off of the Internet there. Others have noticed the rash of German officials getting jobs: Achim Steiner at UNDP and prospectively Horst Kohler on Western Sahara. But some office on 38 now have blank signs. Kyslytsya had just given a right of reply in the Security Council, about Crimea. The mystery and payback for Guterres getting all of the Permanent Five members of the Council on his side to get elected has still not be revealed. But earlier on April 18, Inner City Press which remains evicted from its UN office and confined the UN minders was told, by the minders, that it cannot even work at a table in the UN lobby. This has been raised, yes, to the 38th floor. So they know. There are no rules - a topic, in another context, that Kyslytsya raised in the Security Council.