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On Colombia US Says It Welcomes Duque Moves On JEP While UN Guterres Silent Censoring Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UNITED NATIONS GATE, March 15 – Colombia has been presented at the UN Security Council's one success in the last year. Now, not so much. On March 15, this from the US State Department: "The United States welcomes the Colombian government’s efforts to ensure the law implementing the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) complies with the 2016 Peace Accord and the Colombian Constitution.   The United States also welcomes actions that ensure that those who commit serious crimes after the signing of the Peace Accord, in violation of the accord’s stated aims to promote non-recurrence, are held accountable to the full extent of the law and are subject to extradition as appropriate and foreseen under the 2016 agreement.  The United States reaffirms the importance of Colombia’s expeditiously passing a statute to implement the JEP to ensure it has a solid legal framework to operate effectively and independently.    For over three decades, cooperation between our two governments has proven to be one of the most powerful and effective mechanisms for ensuring the rule of law, pursuing justice, protecting the interests of victims, promoting peace and prosperity, and safeguarding democracy in Colombia.  A significant component of this has been one of the world’s most effective extradition relationships, allowing hundreds of dangerous criminals to face justice.     The United States has provided strong support to Colombia’s journey toward peace.  We welcome efforts to strengthen accountability for war crimes and violations and abuses of human rights and to ensure that those responsible receive sentences proportionate to the crimes committed, whether by the FARC, paramilitaries, or state agents, including the military in Colombia.  The United States views the JEP as an important mechanism for peace and justice in Colombia." After a major ELN bombing there, the Council met and afterward on January 24 issued a statement that began, "The members of the Security Council reiterated their full and unanimous support for the peace process in Colombia and shared the assessment of the Secretary-General set out in his 26 December 2018 report on the work of the United Nations Verification Mission.     The members of the Security Council reiterated their deepest sympathy and condolences to all those affected by the terrorist attack at the Police Academy in Bogotá on 17 January 2019. They condemned the attack and reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.     The members of the Security Council underlined the critical opportunity to consolidate peace, and reiterated the significance of the end of the armed conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP). They welcomed efforts by President Duque’s government to advance implementation of the peace agreement over the past three months. They expressed hope that the “Peace with Legality” plan issued by the Government would deliver a wide-ranging effort to secure, stabilize and develop former conflict areas affected by insecurity, drug trafficking and violence, and noted the importance of coordinated efforts of institutions and initiatives within and beyond the Peace Agreement. They echoed the Secretary-General’s call for quick work to translate this and other plans into effective action in the areas most affected by conflict.     The members of the Security Council reiterated their serious concern about the persistent pattern of assassinations of community and social leaders, with seven verified murders of such leaders since 1 January 2019." And this is the UN Security Council's and Antonio Guterres' success story. Back on 29 October 2018 following the second round of elections in Brazil, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres congratulated the Brazilian people or so his Spokesman said at noon. Now from the US State Department, this: "From December 31-January 2, Secretary Pompeo will lead the Presidential Delegation to Brasilia to attend the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro, President-elect of Brazil.  In addition to joining inauguration-related events, he will participate in a bilateral meeting with incoming President Bolsonaro and Foreign Minister Araujo to reaffirm the strong U.S.-Brazil partnership in promoting prosperity, security, education, and democracy.  While in Brasilia, Secretary Pompeo will also participate in bilateral meetings with Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On January 2, Secretary Pompeo will travel to Cartagena, Colombia to meet with Colombian President Ivan Duque.  He will underscore U.S. support for shared goals, such as counternarcotics efforts, peace accord implementation, trade, and responding to the regional crisis perpetrated by the disastrous policies of the Maduro regime in Venezuela.  Will have more on this - and on Brazil and the UN in 2019, when Guterres loses a Lusophone even as he covers up his links to the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, which tried to sell its Partex Oil including in Angola to China Energy Fund Committee, and  his son Pedro Guimarães e Melo De Oliveira Guterres' business links there and in Sao Tome and Cabo Verde...  When the UN's First Committee met for the first time in this 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, it was a fight and recorded vote on Day 1. Brazil proposed a briefing by
the Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean; Syria said there should be more time to consider it. Finally Brazil called for action, and it was the United States and Israel which voted No, along with 27 abstentions, and 86 for. Elected Noël Diarra (Mali) and José Ataíde Amaral (Portugal) as Vice-Chairs joining Vice-Chair Marissa Edwards (Guyana) and Muna Zawani Idris (Brunei), the Rapporteur. Inner City Press, banned from the UN and its General Assembly and member states for the 93d day by Secreary General Antonio Guterres, could only live tweet, not ask questions. Committee chair Ion Jirga repeated told member states, the ball is is your court. It is not a good beginning. Nor this: When the Security Council President for October, Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz of Bolivia, held a Press-less press conference on October 3, he was asked by a Yemeni journalist "with the Atlantic Council" about being blocked by the Bolivian Mission. He said, We will unblock you right away - in contrast to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who blocks banned Inner City Press with no reversal and these days, no answers. With Inner City Press not able to be present, the Western Sahara question Llorenti received was why it wasn't move covered up, why there was so many meetings about MINURSO. (It is only one month a year, the renewal, with consultations and adoption and one TCC meeting.) There was nothing on Cameroon. Llorenti talked up his upcoming field trip to DR Congo, like the Security Council visit he led to Haiti, which Inner City Press went on and reported from. But now that Guterres for his own reasons has had Inner City Press roughed up and banned since July 3, Llorenti's Mission has yet to respond to this, regarding (now) October 11: "find myself banned from even entering the UN, since 3 July 2018 when I was physically ousted while staking out the Fifth Committee meeting from the Vienna Cafe area, at the invitation of member states on the Committee. I would like to request that you / your Mission ensure that I can enter the UN to cover and hopefully ask a question at your Program of Work press conference tomorrow, and after that to cover / stakeout such meetings at the October 11 consultations on Western Sahara / MINURSO, which is almost impossible to cover without being in the building. As you may know, there are numerous Morocco state media given office space and resident correspondent status by DPI under USG Alison Smale, who has refused to answer a single one of my 10 e-mails. They will cover the Western Sahara meeting, from their perspective. I believe I have a similar right to continue this issue.
Responsible are Chef de Cabinet Viotti (who was called by the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press) and/or DSG Amina Mohammed. Or, pending that, please have the Mission bring me in to these meetings. The only written communication I have received from the UN is this letter from USG Smale, here." We'll have more on this, (well) before October 11.  Back on September 4 when US Ambassador Nikki Haley held a press conference about her Security Council residency, her second, of the 14 questions called on by the US Mission to the UN not one was about anything in Africa or even about UN reform. This happened as 60% of the UN's work is in Africa, the UN is caught up in sexual abuse and harassment scandals and while Inner City Press, which covers UN abuse and has uncovered Secretary General Antonio Guterres' inaction in Cameroon and the African business links of his son Pedro Guimarães e Melo De Oliveira Guterres has been banned from the UN for 63 days by Guterres, prospectively to miss access to the General Assembly High Level week for the first time in 11 years.
   When Inner City Press was roughed up while it covered the UN Budget Committee and a plan by Guterres to move jobs including from New York to Mexico City, it was covered by Fox News which one assumes the US Mission reads. Inner City Press did not reach out for any assistance from the Mission, holding to the principle that the UN should treat journalists fairly without a state sponsor.
   Nothing improved. In fact, Guterres' British head of Global Communications Alison Smale issued a letter banning Inner City Press, dredging up old discredited complaints from Morocco and her bitter deputy. Still, nothing from Haley or the US Mission.
   Finally on August 24, after Inner City Press learned from a non-US source of President Trump's plan for a meeting about drugs on September 24, Inner City Press formally raised the matter to Haley's spokesman, a holdover from the Samantha Power days, John Degory. He indicated he heard what was said.

  But access was not arranged to Haley's September 4 press conference, at which after Haley to her credit at least raised South Sudan in her opening remarks Degory tried to give a question to among others a retired travel agent and a barely intelligible resident correspondent from Pakistan who beyond assisting in Inner City Press' eviction spent the past weekend tweeting that tennis star Serena Williams and her outfits are “pathetic.” That's today's UN.

   Now there is a deadline to cover the UN General Assembly and Inner City Press has applied and has writing an open letter to Haley, below, and cc-ed her and Degory on its polite letter to Smale. Watch this site. Sixty days after Inner City Press was physically ousted frm the UN and then subject to a ongoing ban from entry to cover the Security Council or UN noon briefing, Inner City Press sent a now open letter to US Ambassador Nikki Haley, here:
Dear Ambassador Haley:

   On this the first day of your UN Security Council Presidency, this concerns the censorship of Press the UN has engaged in since July 3.

   I was physically ousted that day by UN Security while I staked-out a meeting of the Fifth (Budget) Committee as I have for a decade. Right after I spoke to Cameroon Ambassador Tommo Monthe, chair of the Fifth Committee, I was grabbed by Lt Ronald E. Dobbins and another officer, shirt torn, laptop damaged, arm twisted. This was covered in Fox News, here, as well as The (UK) Independent.

  On July 5 when I came to cover the Security Council meetings on Syria and Yemen, I was banned from entering UN. After a no due process review by the Department of Public Information's Alison Smale, my accreditation was “withdrawn” on August 17, seemingly for life. The letter is online here, downloadable with some of my rebuttal (not heard by Smale or DPI) here.

  I have raised this verbally to some in your US Mission to the UN, including eight days ago to your spokesman John Degory, followed up in writing with a request to be admitted to your September 4 Program of World press conference. In your first such press conference on 3 April 2017, I asked you about peacekeepers' sexual abuse and the continuing need for the Freedom of Information Act at the UN. Video here.

   As things stand, without any due process, I am banned from your press conference -- at which, for the record, I would like to ask you about the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon which I asked you about on 18 October 2017. Video here. I am also banned from covering the General Assembly High Level week, the deadline for accreditation for which is September 5.

   I firmly believe I have a right to cover this member states' event, despite what I see as bias and lawlessness by DPI and the wider Secretariat. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric in an August 27 noon briefing I was banned from attending cut off a question about my ouster, video here insisting that to say this is about freedom of the press would be wrong. (Then why is it in the Press Freedom Tracker, here, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among others for example in the UK, Japan, Italy and Cameroon? Why this 5000+ signature petition?) They have gotten so petty as to get UNICEF to block me from a book event they had invited me to on September 5. They similarly got my blocked from a press conference held outside of the UN at the Pierre Hotel by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization, whose work on North Korea's cyanide patents I have also asked you about.

  So I am writing to you, asking for your intervention at least on the limited issues of not being blocked from attending your September 4 press conference and relatedly DPI relenting and not blocking me from covering the GA High Level Week, and allowing me to apply and be accredited on Sept 5 like thousands of other correspondents, many state media of government with little respect for press freedom.
Bigger picture, why has the UN banned me for 60 days and counting? I think it is because, more than before, they cannot or feel they do not have to put up with critical questions and coverage.

  Not to be put too fine a point on it, but this is NOT a new day at the UN - or what is new about it is the willingness to rough up and journalist and ban its media for life, with no due process or appeal. This is not consistent with the First Amendment of the US Constitution (which it is now clear entirely stops east of First Avenue) - nor with Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  This is an outrage at the UN that must be addressed.

Matthew Russell Lee,


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