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In Bangladesh As Arakan Times Journalists Are Threatened UN Guterres Silent and Bans Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UN GATE, August 5 – On Bangladesh, back in September 2018 Inner City Press asked the UN, did Mirza Fakhrul Islam and the BNP hiring lobbyists in order to meet with the UN of Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as Cameroon did?

  Now Guterres and his spokespeople have in months  not answered a single one of Inner City Press' 800 questions, including about why he covered up his links to China Energy Fund Committee whose Patrick Ho has been convicted of UN bribery.

 Now in August 2021, Guterres is typically silent on the abuse of Rohinga journalists Sayful Arkane  and Mohammad Aziz Arkane.

 On August 2, the brothers, who cover Rohingya refugees for the YouTube channel of Rohingya news website The Arakan Times, participated in a meeting between Rohingya refugees, U.N. officials, and officials with the office of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner in Nayapara refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh, to discuss changes to food ration cards following protests over the issue, according to Mohammad Aziz Arkane and video of the meeting.  Immediately following the meeting, an officer with the office of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner ordered police to arrest Mohammad Aziz Arkane, the journalist  said.

 He said that a police officer grabbed him, put a hand over his mouth to prevent him from screaming, and pulled him backward but that he was able to struggle free.  Since then, he said that he and his brother have fled to separate hiding places to avoid police detection. He told CPJ that police have repeatedly called him since August 2 and demanded his location.  At approximately 2:00 p.m. on August 2, officers with the Armed Police Battalion raided the brothers’ family home in Nayapara refugee camp, interrogated their parents as to their whereabouts, and said that they were searching for them due to their journalistic activities, according to Mohammad Aziz Arkane.   Since August 2, officers with the same unit have visited the brothers’ home multiple times a day searching for the two journalists, Mohammad Aziz Arkane said. When they visited today, they demanded from the brothers’ parents a bribe of 100,000 taka (US$1,179) in order not to file a criminal case against the brothers in retaliation for their journalistic activities, according to a person familiar with the case.

  This after a meeting with the UN - no back up, from the UN of Guterres, who himself orders attacks on and bans against the Press.

So too, Guterres was silent on the killing of journalist Borhan Uddin Muzakkir. On February 19, in the Companiganj area of Bangladesh’s southern Noakhali district, police and armed demonstrators opened fire during clashes in the street between two factions of the ruling Awami League party, each of which is seeking power in the Companiganj area.  At least nine people were shot at the demonstration, according to that report.  A bullet from an unidentified shooter hit Muzakkir, a reporter covering the clashes for the news website Barta Bazar and the newspaper Bangladesh Samachar, in the throat. He died of his injuries the following evening.

Back on December 31, 2018 , after Inner City Press now banned from entering the UN by Guterres for 965 days and counting, asked in writing: "December 31-4: What is the SG's comment and action on the allegations of electoral fraud in Bangladesh, the lock up of opposition figures and jailing for as little as posting parody songs?" Guterres has gone forward with another Kafka-esque denial of Press access, here. Now a Bangladeshi journalist has been arrested and another is a fugitive after they reported on voting irregularities. Hedayet Hossain Mollah of the Dhaka Tribune newspaper was detained Tuesday evening under the digital security law after he reported that in one constituency 22,419 more ballots than the number of registered voters were cast.... Some voters were told not to enter the polling places, their votes have already been cast for them, after the government has shut the opposition's website and dozens of media, Inner City Press can report that in November 2017 even after the arrest of Patrick Ho the UN took CEFC's $1 million dollars and awarded it to Bangladesh firms. And while Guterres tried even then to conceal his links, his Deputy SG Amina J. Mohammed even after Ho's arrest for UN bribery had remarks delivered at the corrupt event, see here. Still there was silence from Guterres, now on a murky publicly funded junket with a major conflict of interest. Now on December 29, this new low: "Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan said this at a press conference held at RAB’s media centre in Karwan Bazar on Saturday... RAB has already arrested 35 people for spreading rumours surrounding the election, he added. Mufti Mahmud Khan said the eight people were detained last night for spreading rumors. They created videos in the form of their own documentaries, and were also promoting parody songs and publishing them on various websites, Facebook pages and YouTube." Oh, parodies and songs on social media leading to reprisals? This is right down Guterres' alley. At noon on December 26, Inner City Press asked in writing Guterres' spokes-/ hatchment who had it roughed up and banned Stephane Dujarric: "December 26-2: On Bangladesh what is the SG's comment and action on the blocking of opposition and media websites in the run up to the Dec 30 “election”? Dujarric sent no answer or even acknowledgment of receipt for more than seven hours, including to questions about Guterres' own corruption. Then after midnight, this: "The Secretary-General in the run-up to the 30 December general elections in Bangladesh calls on all stakeholders to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion before, during and after the elections, so as to enable a peaceful, credible and inclusive poll.
All Bangladeshi citizens, including minorities and women, must feel safe and confident in exercising their right to vote. Civil society and electoral observers should be fully supported to play their role in the process.
The Secretary-General reiterates the continued commitment of the United Nations to support a peaceful and democratic Bangladesh.Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, New York, 27 December 2018." What double talk.

In  September amid reports that Guterres, so often silent on conflicts in countries which can do him favors like Cameroon on the UN Budget Committee, had invited oppositionists to New York to meet him, Inner City Press on September 14 asked in writing: "has Mirza Fakhrul Islam been invited to NY to meet SG Guterres and if so, for what purpose, and when? This is a request to cover any such meeting." Guterres amid Inner City Press' questions about his inaction on Cameroon and his spending of public funds had Inner City Press roughed up on July 3 and banned from the UN since. While leaving 38 other questions unanswered, Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq on Bangladesh answered, "On your question on Bangladesh, we can say the following: Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca met with BNP Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir today in New York at the request of BNP. DPA is routinely contacted to meet with various political actors in many countries, and this request was no exception. In view of upcoming elections in Bangladesh, we appeal to all sides to ensure a conducive environment for transparent, credible, inclusive and peaceful elections." We said we'd have more on this, and on September 18 before another noon briefing Inner City Press remained banned from by Guterres, Inner City Press asked Guterres' lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, in writing, "September 18-5: On Bangladesh, and lobbying at the UN, what is the SG's rsponse to “Mirza Fakhrul started for London on Friday and met Tarique there before flying back home. The BNP reportedly had hired a US lobbyist firm for arranging the meetings, though the party claims Mirza Fakhrul travelled there at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.” Did the SG know if Fakhrul or BNP hired a lobbyist to set up the meeting? Did the SG know about the Squires Patton Boggs contract by Cameroon before his July 11 meeting?" So far, as usual with Dujarric despite the claims of Guterres' Global Communicator Alison Smale, no answer. The UN under Guterres is turning into an opaque sinkhole of lobbying and censorship. Watch this site.  On the Rohingya, after a long delay Guterres in April named as the UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener. As she issued a glowing read out of her first visit to the country, it was next door Bangladesh and not the UN which announces that Guterres and the World Bank's Jim Kim would visit there on July 1. On July 3 Guterres had Inner City Press ousted from the UN, and on July 5 entirely banned pending a review of the "incident" - his own Security officers' abuse of the Press. Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II. On August 17, Guterres though his Global Communicator Alison Smale issued a lifetime ban on Inner City Press, putting the UN into the US Press Freedom Tracker. Now on August 28, with Inner City Press still having to cover this beat from the street in 91 degree heat, Guterres gave a speech to the UN Security Council. Outside, Inner City Press asked the Permanent Representative of Kuwait Mansour Al-Otaibi if he thought things have gotten better since the Council's trip. No, he said with candor. Inner City Press asked the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh Masud Bin Momen if his government is still going ahead with plans for an island for Rohinga. Yes, he said, but not this monsoon. "We have more lead time. Video here. Guterres was joined in speechifying to the Security Council on Myanmar by Tegegnework Gettu. Who is he? Well, since due to Guterres' outrageous censorship order we have time:

Inner City Press in 2014 reported on then-head of the UN Department of General Assembly and Conference Management  Tegegnework Gettu calling female critics "emotional," here, whistleblowers afraid of retaliation tell Inner City Press that Gettu has continued his "shenanigans" at UNDP. 

Inner City Press then exclusively published internal UNDP (“Atlas”) travel vouchers leaked to it by scared whistleblowers, reflecting among other things Gettu coincidentally putting in for $11,000 travel expenses. Seedocuments here, on Scribd. We'll have more on this.

At UNDP, Gettu's $11,000 Trip Documents Leaked to Inner City Press, He Told Staff, I'm Warning You by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

 Previously, multiple sources informed Inner City Press that Gettu told complaining staff "I am warning you," cutting them off while saying We are all equal, including me." Really? Leaked audio exclusively put online by Inner City Press here.

 Inner City Press asked, What will Secretary General Antonio Guterres do? Now we know: sell out the Anglophones of Cameroon, have the Press which reports on it roughed up and banned for life, and flying to China.

Guterres' blithe spokesman Stephane Dujarric on August 23 said the basis of the ban is "behavioral." Really? Criticizing him, his boss and the UN? On August 23 MSF issued this: "Over the past year, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have provided more than 656,000 consultations to Rohingya refugees through 19 health facilities and mobile clinics across Cox’s Bazar district.

At first, more than half of MSF’s patients were treated for violence-related injuries, but other health concerns soon emerged, linked to the overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in the camps. Dire living conditions have been made even worse by the relentless rains. Teams have treated more than 61,256 cases of acute watery diarrhea, which remains one of the biggest health issues in the camps.

“In an area where cyclones and monsoons are common, there are almost no stable structures for Rohingya refugees, which has a tangible impact on their security and dignity,” says Pavlo Kolovos, MSF head of mission in Bangladesh. "The infrastructure to meet even the most basic needs of the population is still not in place, and that seriously affects people’s well-being.”

Under the pretext that the Rohingya will soon be returning to Myanmar, the humanitarian response has been hampered by restrictions placed on the provision of long-term or substantial aid. The conditions endured by the Rohingya in the makeshift camps fall far short of accepted international humanitarian standards, with the refugees still living in the same temporary plastic and bamboo shelters that were built when they first arrived.

People living in the camps feel vulnerable and exposed. “When it rains we sit together, all our family members, [holding the house down] so the house won’t blow away,” a Rohingya refugee told MSF. “At night it is very dark here, we have no lights.”

While Bangladesh showed extraordinary generosity by opening its doors to the refugees, the future for the Rohingya community here remains uncertain. Countries in the region deny them any formal legal status, despite the fact that they are refugees and have been made stateless by Myanmar. They have limited access to justice to defend their rights. “By refusing to acknowledge the legal rights of Rohingya as refugees, or granting them any other legal status, intervening governments and organizations keep them in a state of acute vulnerability,” says Kolovos.

In addition, the Rohingya remain forcibly confined to the camps, where they generally have poor access to clean water, latrines, health care, education, and job opportunities. Considering the level of violence that the Rohingya faced in Myanmar and the trauma this has caused, services to treat people for mental health issues and sexual and gender-based violence remain inadequate." And what is the UN doing, other than censoring and banning the Press? Traveling to China, of course, as Guterres is slated to do Sept 1-4. Watch this site.
n July 23, while Guterres was on his last vacation and his Communicator Alison Smale iwas incommunicado, Sweden as president of the Security Council managed a press encounter with Guterres envoy
Christine Schraner Burgener from which Inner City Press was banned. Here now the real deal: "Her job as she told inside UN sources is to keep good relations with the regime. Gueterres picked her because she will not rock the boat.  Her husband Christoph is a former Swiss ambassador to Yangon. He attempted to sell tourism [and] use [of] Swiss airplanes to Myanmar generals before the sham election of 2010.  After 2012 programs in Rakhine the Swiss government sponsored the visit of a Rakhine demagogue who called for Muslim cleansing of Rakhine.  His name is Vet surgeon Dr Aye Maung.  He met with Myanmar generals, four weeks before the Aug 25 military terror. Gueterres himself backs these cowardly unprincipled diplomats. All UN agencies and heads in Myanmar (UNDP, UNHCR, WFP, UNFPA and resident coordinators  kowtow  to Suu kyi and are complicit in genocide.  Guterres was informed about the complicity and he refused to open any internal investigation." Inner City Press had previously reported this, from other sources, before it was assaulted by Guterres' Security, ousted and now banned. On July 23  Schraner Burgener got asked about the UN's MOU - but not by what right the UN kept it confidential. She claimed that the government if fine with the return of the Rohingya, it is only conditions in the community which delay it. She praised Aung San Suu Kyi as flexible. She got asked about the "Reuters reporters" by one silent and in fact complicit with UN's roughing up, ouster and ban of Inner City Press. Then it was over. Meanwhile this on his UN system's MOU: "The Burma Task Force (BTF) has condemned the recently agreed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United Nations and the Myanmar government as a non-starter. The agreement, recently made public, claims to establish a “framework for cooperation” on the Rohingya crisis, but excludes the critical issues of citizenship, security, and accountability for crimes against humanity committed by the Myanmar government. Consequently it has drawn widespread criticism from Rohingya refugees and international observers alike. According to critics of the agreement, the Myanmar government has proven its unwillingness to engage in good-faith negotiations through its refusal to restore citizenship to over a million Rohingya Muslims. Without citizenship, basic rights to security, property, and livelihood are effectively non-existent. Moreover, Rohingya leaders themselves were not consulted in the development of the agreement... Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims live in the world's largest refugee camp located outside Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. There, they join hundreds of thousands of existing Rohingya refugees in the country who fled from earlier spasms of violence in Myanmar. Officially deprived of their citizenship since 1982, the Rohingya have been subject to several successive waves of pogroms and military assaults. Most recently, in the summer of 2017 some 700,000 unarmed Rohingya civilians were expelled from Myanmar through a massive military offensive." And from another group: "we are also deeply concerned about UN agencies speculating about the ‘safety of Rohingya people.’ UNHCR, UNDP and other UN agencies have not been able to establish safe conditions for Rohingya since previous repatriations. In fact the situation has deteriorated under the watch of the UN in Myanmar. Troublingly, UN leadership in Myanmar has a poor track record on the ground with respect to Rohingyas’ need for international protection." Today's UN under Guterres is failing. At it turns out this is during an eleventh hour UN budget showdown on Guterres' ostensible reforms, which the investigative Press is restricted from covering, see below. On July 2 Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about his claim the UN Peacekeeping numbers were "approved" on Sunday, with Inner City Press barred from the building and no open meeting on UNTV, and about Sheikh Hasina's plan to move Rohingya to an island. Haq repeated the "approved" claim, rather than stating Guterres view of the island directed Inner City Press to the belated transcript of Guterres' Q&A in Bangladesh. But that UN transcript does not even purport to show what the question was. Here it is: "Q: On Memorandum of Understanding, and on island. SG: First of all, in relation to the MOU, I think I have already clearly responded. This was a first step,in which the UNDP and the UNHCR tried to force the government of Myanmar  to recognize a number of rights to try to pave the way for a potential future return.  It must be considered not as a final agreement on return or anything of the sort. I was informed that the Government of Bangladesh is investing in creating conditions for the development of one island; as the silt moves new islands are being formed in the coast of Bangladesh. So, there is this project. Obviously, UNHCR has been in contact with the government and offered to do an assessment, to see when these works are concluded how the conditions exist in order to allow for a possible important support of that infrastructure to the Rohingyas in Myanmar. But, for the moment, we have no more information except that indeed the Government is investing in this island to create facilities that can serve I believe also several other purposes. We see with a lot of interest any initiative of the Government of Bangladesh in this regard, because the living conditions here are of course, as you have seen, extremely difficult." So Guterres is OK with it? And as Inner City Press has asked Guterres' Office of the Spokesperson without answer, is the MOU public or confidential, like Guterres' billion dollar "approvals"? Inner City Press' sources among senior Guterres official describe him as having long rebuffed staff suggestions to speak out about attacks on Rohinga, based on Guterres' mis-placed faith in Aung San Suu Kyi. Guterres' actual history makes a mockery of his quote in Bangladesh that "We're keeping up pressure on Myanmar...we need to put more pressure on Myanmar to make them understand what they should do on this issue." Really? When has Guterres stood up to Aung San Suu Kyi? Or even Sheikh who "said the government is preparing an island to relocate around 100,000 Rohingyas." What has Guterres said about that? Watch this site. Typically, the UN at first refused to even confirm what Bangladesh said.. On June 21, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the Myanmar envoy.  I wanted to ask you to confirm that the Secretary-General will be in Bangladesh in Cox's Bazar in early July.  The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh has announced that, that he'll be there with Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank.  They've talked about the specifics of World Bank funding.  So, given that they've said that, will you confirm it?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, as you know, with all trips, once we have an announcement ready, we'll announce it.  We don't have anything to announce at this stage.

Inner City Press:  And I also wanted to ask you, relate… in the same… in Cox's Bazar, a well-known Rohingya spokesperson/representative, Arifullah, was hacked to death.  And I wanted to know, is there any… I mean, given that the UN is present in these camps, who's responsible for it?  What will be done about it?  What's your comment on it?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are aware of these latest reports, which are disturbing.  Obviously, we would hope that the local law enforcement authorities in Cox's Bazar investigate this thoroughly." What is the UN for?
Why is Guterres' UN so untransparent? At 2 am local time on Sunday, July 1 Guterres arrived in Dhaka via Qatar Airlines, with his spokesman Stephane Dujarric who on June 19 provided a private UN Press Briefing Room Q&A to Qatar's Al Jazeera, here, leading to claims that Inner City Press covering it, from the hall, was too aggressive. On June 22 Guterres' armed guards ousted Inner City Press during an event at which Guterres gave a speech about a previous trip, separating Inner City Press from its laptop for three days.
Video here, story here, new petition here. Dujarric then rejected questions about it, and Guterres and his team have not replied. In Dhaka they headed to the Radisson Blu Water Garden. We'll have more on this.


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