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As UNSG Guterres Stopped in Cameroon, Now UN Read-Out, Here, Destination UNdisclosed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 28 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres left the Central African Republic after four days and stopped over in Yaounde the capital of La Republique du Cameroun, meeting with Paul Biya to assess the situation in the Anglophone areas where Biya has killed hundreds since their last meeting. Even the next day the UN had issued no read-out or photo of the meeting, UNlike Biya's office here, complete with photos of Biya giving Guterres a statuette or award, like the one Ban Ki-moon received from the now discredited South South News, along with Francis Lorenzo who pleaded guilty to UN bribery. After Inner City Press asked for a read-out and where Guterres is, this came back, which we publish in full: "Dear Matthew, In response to your question, the Secretary-General and President Paul Biya discussed the situation in the Central African Republic; refugees in Cameroon; the situation in the Lake Chad Basin; and the situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon." So what might Biya have said about this region in which he has killed so many? And why didn't Guterres listen to any of those impacted? The UN still refuses even to say where Guterres was, until Monday, spending public funds in UNdisclosed amounts. In UN headquarters on October 28, where Guterres' Department of Public Information under Alison Smale has threatened Inner City Press' accreditation for reporting what Guterres' officials say, UN excutions expert Agnes Callamard said it would have been better if Guterres had issued a read out of his meeting with the Philippines foreign minister. But Guterres is untransparent, and more. This is today's UN. with his team of UN "storytellers" trying to make him and the UN look good. His spokespeople refused three times to confirm to Inner City Press that he would stop, if only for four hours, in Cameroon where hundreds have been killed by the government, which as repeatedly cut of the Internet to prevent exposure of its crackdown. Then Guterres handed the "news" to Agence France Presse, which never asked him about Cameroon at the UN. So on October 27, Inner City Press again asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about, as I have the last three days in a row, about the Secretary-General's stopover in Yaoundé.  I saw he was quoted by AFP [Agence France-Presse].  Quote, we're going to be able to… we are going to be able to assess the recent evolution of the situation in the Anglophone community.  So some people are wondering how a four-hour stopover in an airport and speaking with Paul Biya, who's actually the one accused of the killings and turning off the internet in the Anglophone areas, is going to make the Secretary-General able to assess the evolution.  Is he going to speak to anyone else on the other side of it?  And also, why was it so… why was it so difficult to confirm this trip, and why did he do it in the way that he did?  Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is the one who confirms when he will go to certain places.  He did announce it yesterday, and after which, we made it very clear that that's where he was going.  Up until then, it wasn't officially confirmed.  He will go there, and we'll try to get some details from his meeting.  But, of course, this is not the only way that we've been assessing the situation.  There have been efforts by other officials, including his envoy, François Lonseny Fall, to deal with the situation, and we'll continue with those efforts.  Innner City Press: So it was said right after 1 October and all the killings that Mr. Fall was going to go.  Now it's 27 October.  Has Mr. Fall gone? Deputy Spokesman:  He will, I believe, be accompanying the Secretary-General on this visit." But Fall is the one who, on UN Radio, calls secessionists in Southern Cameroons "extremists." We'll have more on this.

Guterres' head of Global Communications Alison Smale, as recounted and documented by Inner City Press, has said that positive stories by her Department during Guterres' trip will "show what we can do." And what's that? Smale's DPI has used public money to produce a vanity two-minute video of Guterres in CAR, complete with adoring crowds reaching out to touch his hand, in the background Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the fifth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row. This amid a scandal of frightened people having to pay contractors to protect them as the UN peacekeepers won't. The previous day Smale was promoting a multimedia story about a poster-child peacekeeper in CAR - from Cameroon.

The story has the peacekeeper, Gladys Ngwepekeum Nkeh, helping a girl who has been raped (not as has often happened by a UN peacekeeper.) The UN for two days has refused to answer Inner City Press if it ever disciplined, and if Guterres is meeting with, Renner Onana who was criticized in the UN's own report on its sexual abuse in CAR, noted even in Smale's New York Times, here. (Renner has been shown in a tweeted photo in December 2016 with Fabrizio Hochschild, one of Guterres' advisers, more on which below.)

While the UN images, by a UN photographer flown from New York to Bangui days before Guterres and his spokesman Stephane Dujarric went, are welcome, the written story does not even mention the rapes by UN peacekeepers, much less the human rights record of the Cameroonian security forces.

Meanwhile, Smale's Department of Public Information on October 20 issued a threat to Inner City Press to "review" its accreditation for its reporting, including on Guterres' team on the UN's 38th floor. This is a clear conflict of interest, between the openly stated goal of making Guterres and the UN look good and the power to threaten the accreditation of, and continuing retaliatory restrictions on, the independent, critical Press. Smale herself has not answered repeated petitions to her in the seven weeks she has been on the job; the same is true to the top of the UN. This all is shameful.

For the entirety of Guterres' term as Secretary General, he has been seen by many as under-performing on the crisis in Cameroon, as the Internet was cut off for 94 days then hundreds killed, thousands displaced. Why? Inner City Press, which even under restrictions imposed by Guterres' Department of Public of Information now under Alison Smale, has asked Guterres and his spokesmen about each escalatory step of the crisis, was first to bring to light the role of Khassim Diagne Guterres' main Africa adviser. Diagne was UNHRC's representative in Yaounde, and Inner City Press has quoted him saying that Cameroon's 35-year president and his foreign minister are doing a good job. The next day, Inner City Press received a letter threatening its accreditation, including for "over-reporting" conversations on the UN's 38th floor.

But there's more. Guterres deafness is also a product of not even having a Special Adviser on Africa. When the Egyptian Ban Ki-moon gave the job to, Maged Abdelazziz, left and became the UN representative of the League of Arab States, Guterres offered the post to Angola's foreign minister and was turned down. Likewise he made job offers to two senior officials of the Kenyatta government in Nairobi, including as exclusively reported by Inner City Press Monica Juma, and was turned down. Why don't these people want to work for Guterres? If this happened in Washington, there would be much reporting. But at the UN, it is only Inner City Press - and they threaten its accreditation. Before Guterres' current trip to the Central African Republic, Inner City Press asked him about UN sexual abuse there, and about the UN's inaction on mass killings in neighboring Cameroon. Guterres purported to answer on the former, and "didn't hear" the 15-second question on Cameroon. (Then Guterres' Department of Public Information two days later threatened Inner City Press' accreditation, see below.)

On October 25 once Guterres was in CAR, with a personal photographer deployed in advance and his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Inner City Press asked deputy spokesman Farhan Haq if Guterres in CAR will meet with Mr. Renner Onana, named as a bad actor in the UN's own report on its sexual abuse in CAR. Video here; UN transcript here. A full day later, during a trip that DPI's Alison Smale said will be a litmus test of UN story-telling, the UN hadn't even answered this basic question.

So on October 25, Inner City Press asked Haq again, noting it had found online a photo of Renner Onana, with a promotion, greeting Fabrizio Hochschild, a main adviser to Guterres. Haq said he was still checking - this just after he'd said Guterres is working on freedom of information - and that Onana might still be employed by the UN but on leave. How hard is it to find out? Story-telling indeed. Unless the UN intends to try to replace the independent press, isn't answering factal questions part of the litmus test? Or is attacking and censoring critics the goal? Smale and her deputy who brought about the threat to Inner City Press' accreditation after calling it too negative then blocking it on Twitter, were both on October 24 at the New York UN Day event, which UNlike other correspondents Inner City Press could only reach, later, with their minder. Alamy photos here. Deputy SG Amina Mohammed was informed - but Cameroonian diplomats quote her as saying Anglophone Cameroonian aspirations will never be supported because... Biafra. Maybe she said it; we know what the Cameroonian said but after DPIs threat are it seems not supposed to run audio. Today's UN seems corrupt, in CAR and at Headquarters. This is UN Day. The UN delivered a threat to Inner City Press to “review” it accreditation on Friday afternoon at 5 pm. The UN official who signed the letter, when Inner City Press went to ask about the undefined violation of live-streaming Periscope video at a photo op by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, had already left, minutes after sending the threat. What to make of the letter's vague statement, "filming and recording on the 38th floor are limited to official photo opportunities, and recording conversations of others in the room is not permitted. It has been brought to our attention that you breached that rule recently"? It's not only vague as to when, but absurd: once a Periscope is authorized to start streaming, it is impossible to not record someone who speaks loudly at the photo op. This comes two days after Inner City Press asked Guterres about the UN inaction on threatened genocide in Cameroon, and the UN claimed Guterres hadn't heard the 15-second long question.  Recently at a photo op, Guterres' adviser on Cameroon Khassim Diagne spoke loudly. Inner City Press later reported, based on sourcing, that Diagne who was previously the representative to Cameroon for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency Guterres ran, speaks in favor of Cameroon's government. Is this letter a response to the reporting? Is it retaliation? Is it intimidation to stop reporting on this threatened genocide? We can't ask the complainant, Maher Nasser: after the threat was delivered, he blocked Inner City Pres on Twitter, here.

  It also comes after Alison Smale the head of the Department of Public Information which would “review” Inner City Press' accreditation has ignored three separate petitions from Inner City Press in the six weeks she has been in the job, urging her to remove restrictions on Inner City Press' reporting which hinder its coverage of the UN's performance in such crises as Yemen, Kenya, Myanmar, and the Central African Republic where Guterres travels next week, with Smale's DPI saying its coverage of the trip will be a test of its public relations ability. But the UN official who triggered the complaint is Maher Nasser, who filled in for Smale before she arrived.

UN's Letter Threatening to Review Inner City Press' Accreditation for Audio Report While Staking Out on Cam... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

His complaint is that audio of what he said to Inner City Press as it staked out the elevators in the UN lobby openly recording, as it has for example with Cameroon's Ambassador Tommo Monthe, here, was similarly published

A UN “Public Information” official is complaining about an article, and abusing his position to threaten to review Inner City Press' accreditation. The UN has previously been called out for targeting Inner City Press, and for having no rules or due process. But the UN is entirely UNaccountable, impunity on censorship as, bigger picture, on the cholera it brought to Haiti. And, it seems, Antonio Guterres has not reformed or reversed anything. This threat is from an official involved in the last round of retaliation who told Inner City Press on Twitter to be less "negative" about the UN - amid inaction on the mass killing in Cameroon - and who allowed pro-UN hecking of Inner City Press' questions about the cholera the UN brought to Haiti and the Ng Lap Seng /John Ashe UN bribery scandal which resulted in six guilty verdicts. We'll have more on this.


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