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On Thailand, ICP Asked UN of SIM Card Tracking, Spox Says It's OKed by Referendum

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 11 -- The UN under Ban Ki-moon increasingly has separate messages for separate audiences, for example exclusive off-the-record South Korean political talk for South Korean journalists, praise of Turkey for Turkish journalists, evictions for the critical Press.

Sometimes it just plain mis-speaks. On August 10, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq about Thailand, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Thailand, does the UN have any response… or any, I guess, comment on this constitutional referendum that took place the weekend without, you know, observers at the polls, and also this new provision or proposal by the Government that non-Thais have a Government SIM card put into their phones that can’t be turned off such that they could be tracked throughout the country during their stay?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we’re aware of the referendum that took place and take note of the results, but we have no further comment on that.

Question:  And on the SIM card issue, do you see this as a violation of privacy, as some are saying, or as an attempt to even stop any kind of outside observation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ultimately, this is something that was put to a referendum and we note what the result is of that.

The SIM card issue was not put to the referendum. There has been no correction, only when Inner City Press asked Haq about Ban administration corruption on August 11, an allegation that he was being "bullied."

On Cambodia on July 13, Inner City Press asked Ban's lead  spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: in Cambodia, this human rights campaigner, Kem Ley, was killed.  One of the special rapporteurs spoke on it, but the main opposition party had actually asked for UN involvement in investigation of his killings, a big critic of Hun Sen, and is the UN aware of that request? Will they…?

Spokesman:  No.  I haven't seen the request.  Obviously, I think the Secretary-General was very sad to learn of the death of Kem Ley.  We hope the authorities will mount a full and impartial investigation into the circumstances of his… of the shooting, of his death.  I think overall, the Secretary-General remains very concerned about the situation in Cambodia, including reports of wide-spread intimidation, harassment and arrest of members of civil society, the media, members of the opposition, and the National Election Committee.  He calls for the full respect of human rights, including the freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

Inner City Press:  How about in Thailand, I don't know if you have seen, they have the upcoming referendum, opposition party members that were campaigning against the referendum have been arrested, including a journalist from something called Prachatai, who was covering their distribution of booklets?

Spokesman:  I have not seen that.  And we are obviously following the situation in Thailand. 

  Folowing, but UNaware of the lock up of a journalist. That's Ban's UN.

 Inner City Press on May 31 asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Video here, UN Transcript here and below. Now on June 8, after dropping Saudi Arabia from the Children and Armed Conflict annex due to financial pressure, Ban issues - tries to compensate with, some say - this on Cambodia:

"The Secretary-General spoke by telephone on Tuesday evening with H.E. Mr. Prak Sokhonn, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Secretary-General expressed his concerns about reports of widespread intimidation, harassment and arrests of civil society actors, the media, staff and members of the National Election Commission, and members of the opposition.

"The Secretary-General conveyed his hope that the Government of Cambodia would ensure full respect for human rights, including the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. He called for the resumption of the culture of dialogue between the Cambodia People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party."

The problem now is, are Ban's lists and (relatively) tough talk limited to those without Saudi-like financial leverage? This is what Ban has done to the UN.

From the May 31 transcript:

Inner City Press: On Cambodia, has your office issued a statement of concern about the crackdown there? Because some… they are saying that it was issued and it was stunningly timid.  They said it didn’t capture… that it’s basically Hun Sen cracking down on the opposition.  It’s not a two-sided thing.  So I was looking at the counter there.  Has there been a statement on Cambodia?

Spokesman:  I always appreciate the analysis of our response.  We were asked and we answered.  There was no statement issued, and since I… I take it you’re asking what our position is.  The Secretary-General is, indeed, concerned about the escalating tensions between the ruling and the opposition parties in Cambodia, particularly the arrests or attempted arrests of parliamentarians, who enjoy parliamentary immunity.  A non-threatening environment of democratic dialogue is essential for political stability and a peaceful and prosperous society.

Inner City Press:  All right.  But you’ve seen the criticism that this seems to sort of equate the opposition that’s getting arrested with the…

Spokesman:  I think people are free to analyse and dissect our statements.  We would expect that is the case.

Or not. For ten years as Inner City Press covered the UN in ever greater detail, showing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Herve Ladsous' inept overseeing and cover up of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, disparate treatment in Mali, dalliance with genocide in Sri Lanka and prospectively Burundi, impunity for cholera deaths in Haiti and until now for UN lead poisoning in Kosovo and cravenly pro-Saudi position on Yemen amid the airstrikes, it was never thrown out of the UN.

Now it has been. New York Times of May 14 here.  And even as groups like the Government Accountability Project tell Ban to reverse the eviction and give Inner City Press back its long time office and Resident Correspondent pass, Ban's UN tellingly moved to award Inner City Press' office to Egypt state media Al-Akhbar / Akhbar Elyoum.  Tweeted photograph here.

On May 19, a sign for "Al Akhbar Yom" went up on Inner City Press' office - Inner City Press has STILL never seen the correspondent being given the stolen office.

So on May 20 Inner City Press went to get an on the record explanation from Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Duajrric, before Ban sets out on a campaign trip to South Korea (denied by his senior adviser Kim Won-soo). But not only did Dujarric refuse to answer the question - Gallach's DPI intentionally omitted from the transcript Inner City Press' entirely audible question about Ban Ki-moon's commitment to freedom of the press. The question then, answer itself.

Since the spin to the NYT is that Inner City Press' questions on corruption and censorship somehow block questions other correspondents want to ask, Inner City Press twice told Dujarric it would hold one question to the end. But Dujarric, showing that the spin is a scam, insisted: go ahead. Video here. From the UN Transcript:

Inner City Press: I have another question, but I don't want to…

Spokesman:  Well, just ask it.

Inner City Press:  No, no, I'll wait.

Spokesman:  I'd like you to ask it now.

Question:  Okay.  Stay where you are and I’ll do it as fast as I can.  I wanted to ask you, you sometimes say you don’t have a long memory, but you’ve been a Spokesman for a while.  When is the last time, to your knowledge, that the publication Akhbar al Youm has been in this room and asked a question?  And the reason I asked… you said I could ask.  I’ll do it quickly.  The office that was formerly "Inner City Press", has been given to this organization.  I've never seen them here.  I'm aware there's a rule of being three days a week here.  So, I’m wondering… and you used to implement that rule.  And the reason I’m asking you, and you’re going to say, ask MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit], I want an on the record quote.  This is a media organization that CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] says targets other medias for arrest for not agreeing with the Government.

Spokesman:  I will tell you that I do not have in my head the attendance records of journalists here.  Some of you are here every day.  But, for the rest of you, I don't keep tabs in my head.  And again, that’s a question for you to ask MALU.

Inner City Pres:  But, I'm asking for an on-the-record comment.  What does it say about freedom of the press…

Spokesman:  I’ve given you… Nabil?

Inner City Press' last line, "What does it say about freedom of the press," was intentionally mistranscribed and censored: it said, What does it say about Ban Ki-moon's commitment to freedom of the press."

This is today's UN: ham-handed censorship. 

The UN says Resident Correspondents must be at the UN three days a week, but Inner City Press has never seen this person, former UN Correspondents Association president Sanaa Youssef, much less asking a question in the UN noon briefing. 

The point, of course, which Dujarric did everything he could to cut off, including walking out of the brieifng room and not returning, is what does it say about Ban Ki-moon's supposed commitment to free press to evict the investigative Press here every day for a state media never here, never with questions, which targets other journalists for arrest?

The question is answering itself, but we will continue. Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq after the briefing was heard telling DPI staff under Gallach that he had predicted Inner City Press would "go after" Akhbar Elyom.

This is today's UN: here's Haq on Jan 29, video here, and before. Haq claimed incorrectly that "non resident correspondent" passes get one through to the second floor: either years out of date or intentional inaccurate. This too is today's UN.

Scribes speaking off the record according to the New York Times of May 14 "accused [ICP] of printing gossip, rumors." That UNCA's president rented an apartment to Palitha Kohona then granted his request to screenin the UN his government's war crimes denial film is no rumor or gossip.

But Akhbar Elyom, to which Gallach's and Ban's MALU and UNCA have given Inner City Press' office, not only gets journalists in Egypt attested - it targets, with a "Muslim Brotherhood" smear, a journalist who works right in the UN. Arabic article here.

This is the journalism that Ban Ki-moon and his Cristina Gallach want and reward. By taking away Inner City Press' office, it is now required to have a minder and is told to not ask diplomats questions. This is censorship.

Akhbar Elyom has been used to finger for imprisonment non-state journalists in Egypt. For example, in July 2015 Aboubakr Khallaf, the founder and head of the independent Electronic Media Syndicate (EMS), “was arrested after a news article was published by the government-owned daily Akhbar Elyoum.”


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