On Madagascar, UN Guterres Starts Paying Bathily As Envoy, Said Previously Paid To Go Easy on Gabon

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On Madagascar, UN Guterres Starts Paying Bathily As Envoy, Said Previously Paid To Go Easy on Gabon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- Amid protests in Madagascar that have turned deadly, of the attempt to ban former president Marc Ravalomanana from running for office, Inner City Press on April 23 asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN had any comment. No, he said. Now Guterres has started paying as a UN envoy a person already accused of taking money from a controversial rules, Ali Bongo of Gabon. On April 25 Inner City Press asked Dujarric again, citing the deaths, and Dujarric said said he might have something later. Minutes afterward - apparently being held to never be read unless asked in the briefing room from which Dujarric has previously evicted Inner City Press - came this UN response: “Your question on Madagascar: The Secretary-General is aware of reports of loss of life and many injured during recent demonstrations in Madagascar.  He extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured. He calls for calm, and urges the political actors to engage in dialogue to avoid the repeat of the crises of the past. The achievements that have been made in recent years to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights must be preserved for the benefit of all the people of Madagascar.”  We'll have more on this (previous pre-eviction Madagascar coverage here). The protests are also against current president Hery Rajaonarimampianina. But on April 27 Dujarric read out this statement: "The Secretary-General spoke with H.E. Mr. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, President of Madagascar, this morning.  The Secretary-General reiterated his call for political dialogue, offered his good offices, and agreed with the President to dispatch his Special Adviser, Mr. Abdoulaye Bathily, to Madagascar immediately.  Mr. Bathily will work closely with the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.  The Secretary-General calls on all stakeholders to extend their support and cooperate with his Special Adviser in the discharge of his duties." It's a small and some say dirty world: back on 10 April 2018 Inner City Press asked Dujarric, in writing, about Bathily:
a published report says Fall's predecessor at UNOCA Abdoulaye Bathily has similarly in the pocket of Gabon's hereditary ruler Ali Bongo - for money. See report, here, picked up in Senegal, here. Dujarric and his deputy never responded to the repeated. On April 26 when Inner City Press asked again, in person. UN transcript here: Inner City Press: with this announcement about Madagascar, I had wanted to ask you, you said Mr. Bathily, I guess, is going to be the envoy.  I… one, what's his role in that with the UN?  I thought he used to be the head of UNOCA [United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa].

Spokesman:  Right.  He's now… as of today, he's a Special Adviser of Secretary-General on a when-employed basis, and he will be employed to go to Madagascar along the terms outlined in the readout.

Inner City Press:  And I had asked you in writing on 10 April about a published report in Senegal and elsewhere in Africa… Afrique Confidentielle, saying that essentially, this is their report, that Mr. Bathily received money from Ali Bongo while he was working on Gabon and I wonder, you never responded to that.  Is that something… once that was published and you didn't answer the question, did the UN look into that publication?

Spokesman:  We don't believe these reports to be true.

Inner City Press:  So who suggested Mr. Bathily?  Was it the Secretary-General or the President of Madagascar?

Spokesman:  He has been on the Secretary-General's radar as someone who could help on Madagascar.  Obviously, it's the Secretary-General's choice.  As when he sends an envoy representative to any country, it has to be done with the agreement of the receiving country.

Inner City Press:  But this… this published… this previous published report basically implies that as a UN envoy, officially at the time, Mr. Bathily went… I don't know, went soft, didn't… was not critical of Gabon in exchange for money.

Spokesman:  As I said to you, we believe these reports to be false.  What's your next question?" That how the UN covers up. 
The cynical lack of transparency of Antonio Guterres' UN administration was on display on April 23 when he secretly issued a statement on Armenia, while his Office denied it to the Press, then modified it hours later. Amid the protests in Yeravan, Inner City Press after an Armenia-less UN noon briefing on April 23 went to Guterres' Spokesperson's Office and asked if Guterres had made a statement. No, Inner City Press was told, the UN was only thinking about making a statement. Hours later Inner City Press by a fortuity - at the UN Tourists' Entrance it is forced to use for two years and counting for reporting on UN corruption - was informed that that was "language" issued in response to a question. But it has not been read out at the noon briefing, as happens on other questions. And later after 8 pm a Guterres statement was issued, different from the first one. It added, for example, "The Secretary-General seizes this opportunity to echo the recent appeal by the OSCE’s Minsk Group Co-Chairs urging all sides to prevent any potential escalations along the Line of Contact and to intensify efforts toward a peaceful negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." So on April 24, Inner City Press asked Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: yesterday, I saw it just after the noon briefing, that there had been a statement on Armenia.  I just want to understand sort of how it came out, so then I went to your office and asked.  They said there wasn't a statement…

Spokesman:  No, there was no statement.

Inner City Press: Then they said there was an answer given…

Spokesman:  There was no statement at the time you asked.  There was a question that was asked by one of your colleagues.  It was not a statement.  We gave him an answer.  And then, later in the day, an official statement was released, and we shared that with everybody.

Inner City Press: Did you give the answer… was it in a f… in typed-up paper form?  Because it was tweeted as a photograph of what looked just like a statement.

Spokesman:  It was given… when a journalist asks us a question outside of the briefing room, we share it with that journalist.  Right?

Inner City Press: When you choose to answer.

Spokesman:  When we're able to answer.  Okay?  If there is a statement, we will share it broadly.  If there is… if someone raises a question in this briefing and then we answer later, we share it with everybody.

Inner City Press: Then how do you decide?  Sometimes you come in here you say, in response to questions from your colleagues, I have the following to say… When do you do it?

Spokesman:  It's the beauty of the authority that's invested in me." Bragging of lawlessness, as when Dujarric evicted Inner City Press from the UN Press Briefing Room while leaving other correspondents on it.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres slightly delayed his trip to Saudi Arabia, but not by much. After accepting a $930 million check from the Saudi Crown Prince and in remarks not mentioning the civilians deaths caused by Saudi bombing of Yemen, now Guterres has delivered again, remarks praising Saudi Arabia's counter terrorism work. Some find it ironic; some call this trip "Blood Money II." But duty called. Before he left, Guterres who refused actually pointed Press questions with  dismissive wave of the hand, delivered a 20 minute interview to Saudi aligned media. Now there, he is quoted with more praise of Saudi, by the Saudi Press Agency (to which his UN has given office space and full access while evicting and restricting the independent Press). The UN has yet to send out a transcript of Guterres' craven remarks quoted by the Saudi Press Agency, sending so far only a speech beginning "Your Excellency, Foreign Minister al-Jubeir, Your Excellency, Ambassador Al-Mouallimi, I want to express my deep gratitude to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its generous support to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, a support without which the Centre, would probably never have been able to be born. And I thank Ambassador Al Mouallimi for his able chairmanship of this Advisory Board... I recently launched the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Compact, which I signed with the heads of 36 UN entities, the INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization." INTERPOL, of course, is used by some governments to arrest or travel ban their opponents. We'll have more on this. Only a week before as Guterres took off on his trip to China, Inner City Press which has pursued the UN bribery scandals of Ng Lap Seng and now the China Energy Fund Committee asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric on April 6 if Guterres will address any of these issues during his five days in the country. Dujarric was dismissive, and ended the briefing. Video here; UN transcript here and below. This cutting off of public quesitons happened after Guterres gave a private (self) promotional interview to China's state media Xinhua, touting the trip and China as "absolutely essential" on the North Korea nuclear issue. Dujarric race off the podium made it impossible to ask him for Guterres' opinion on if the gifts given to Kim Jong Un on his recent train trip to China violated the UN's 1718 sanctions. Then again, the UN's own World Intellectual Property Organization helped on North Korea's cyanide patents without telling the 1718 Committee, and Guterres has been as hands-off with WIPO's Gurry as he has been with UNAIDS' Michel Sidibe on the sexual harassment and retaliation scandal. We'll have more on this. From the UN's April 6 transcript: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about the… the trip to China by the Secretary-General.  You know, as you know there's… there's one being concluded and one still active UN bribery cases pending in the Southern District of New York.  Most recently…

Spokesman:  I don't agree with your characterization.

Inner City Press: They're both about bribing the PGA.  I guess you can say the PGA is not really the UN, but…

Spokesman:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  So my question is since there seems to be a pattern of… in two cases, one was Ng Lap Seng, South-South News, who Vivian Wang has now pleaded guilty.  The other is the China Energy Fund Committee, which remains in consultative status with ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council].  Is this an issue that the Secretary-General, in visiting the home base of both operations, and both are alleged to be Government connected?

Spokesman:  The United Nations has cooperated with the Southern District here in New York in whatever way we can in any and all investigations.  The legal process here has played itself out and is playing itself out, and as for the accreditation of the ECOSOC accreditation, as I've told you numerous times, it's a member state issue…". And then Dujarric ran off the podium. We'll have more on this. The UN has been targeting not only Inner City Press for censorship, but also its sources, for retaliation.

It was reported and quoted here:  "Looks like UN is making efforts to ID people who send stuff to media: 'Identified a computer used to print an email that was later leaked to Inner City Press, by correlating an URL on the top of the leaked document with Webmail & DHCP logs.' Are they punishing whistleblowers?"

Well, yes. And the investigative Press.

On March 14, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the above-quoted and he said, since the UN has confidential information it can and does investigate leaks and leakers. Video here.

But isn't that, in leaks to Inner City Press ranging from Burundi to Cameroon to cover ups to North Korea, going after whistleblowers? Haq dodged, and Inner City Press asked if a person who leaked the memo to Kofi Annan about impending genocide in Rwanda would be investigated. Apparently yes - but Haq again claimed that there is no retaliation. What about Anders Kompass, fired after releasing a document bout French peacekeepers' rapes in Central African Republic? Or Miranda Brown? Or Emma Reilly? On March 15, after asking Haq about threats of retaliation made at and by UNAIDS, Inner City Press asked what type of leak the UN investigates, and for whom. Haq said any kind the UN wants, and ostensibly for member states. Video here.

From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: On the issue of investigations, given what you said yesterday, I took the time to digest it.  I've also heard from some people that were surprised by it.  I want to just be clear. You said the UN can absolutely investigate perceived leaks because it deals with confidential information, if I take you correctly.  I mean, you said that it can do that, but you seem to also claim that no one is retaliated against.  So, the two things I wanted to know is, when can the UN investigate?  Is it… does it have to be information labelled confidential?  Can it be… in what cases does it… and… and if the Anders Kompass case or the Miranda Brown case or the Emma Reilly case, these are all cases of retaliation.  So, can you explain what you were saying yesterday?

Deputy Spokesman:  With the cases you're referring to, these are cases where the system itself examined what was happening.  We do that in compliance with our rules and our procedures, and we certainly make sure that all the whistle-blower protections are put in place.  That is why we look into those individual cases.  What you were talking about was a general question of:  Can leaks be investigated?  And with the United Nations, as with any other entity, you have the right to do that to make sure that the confidentiality of sensitive documents is protected.

Inner City Press: So, for example, the UN's request to the 1718 Committee for a waiver and the use of a correspondent bank that was leaked, and I did publish it, can that be investigated?  Is that considered… what's… does it require the showing of harm to the UN to investigate it or…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Those are ultimately the judgments that are made by relevant officials.  It's clear, as with any number of institutions, whether State institutions or private institutions, that documents leak out.  But, it's also clear that, for the diplomatic work of the UN to continue, Member States have to feel secure in the confidentiality of many of those communications.  And so that is a judgment that individual managers will have to make.

Inner City Press:So, is it Member State information?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said it's a decision that managers would have to make in terms of what they feel is important and sensitive.

Inner City Press: Can you see why with the UNAIDS guy's comment about "I can investigate my enemies", why the two put together, an unfettered or unclear ability to investigate any leak, combined with threats from UN officials to investigate any opponents, might be problematic?

Deputy Spokesman:  There is no effort and, certainly, there is no encouragement to any sort of effort to pursue people who are making complaints.  Those are something… that's something that's entitled within the system.  And, as you know, there are a series of protections throughout the system for people who make complaints about issues at the workplace, whether sexual harassment or otherwise.  Again, I'm just stressing the basic point of principle that the UN does have the right, just as a point of principle, to protect the confidentiality of its communications." We'll have more on this. Here's how the UN transcribed it: Inner City Press: it's been said here by OHRM [Office of Human Resources Management], which did a press conference that UN — and you just said it, in fact — that UN staff are free to speak.  So, I wanted to ask you, this is a quote of a document obtained by the journalist Lauren Wolfe, who's recently written about “#MeToo” at the UN.  And the document, it's a UN document, says: "Identified a computer… a computer used to print an email that was later leaked to Inner City Press by correlating an URL at the top… URL at the top of the leaked document with web mail and DHCP logs," which is Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.  Basically, it reflects that UN — and I believe it's OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] — is conducting electronic investigations to determine which UN staff member leaked documents showing UN wrongdoing, they believe.  And so, how does this square with the idea that people are free to blow the whistle and that the UN wants wrongdoing and malfeasance to be confronted in any way possible?  And is it appropriate to… to identify whistle-blowers that communicate with investigative journalists?  Is that appropriate?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, whistle-blowers should be protected.  At the same time, as you know, there's a huge amount of confidential information in the United Nations, information that needs to be handled with great sensitivity.  And it is appropriate for different offices to monitor how those… that information is handled.

Inner City Press: I just wanted to ask one… just… because it seems like there's… there could be a conflict between saying that whistle-blowers are free to speak, but we're free to investigate them because we're an organization that has confidential information.  So, I'm asking about this specific… and I believe you can answer on this one…

Deputy Spokesman:  Every institution, including all Governments, are free to conduct leak investigations, and they do so.  We try to make sure… and there are, as you know, different offices and different avenues for protection for whistle-blowers.  There's a whistle-blower protection policy, and that has to be enforced.

Inner City Press: So, if somebody leaked — for example, I'm going to go back so it's not a hypothetical, an actual document — the Rwanda memo that went to Kofi Annan that said weapons are being stored and a genocide is about to happen, somebody leaked it to the press, would the UN… would it be appropriate for the UN to investigate who blew the whistle on human rights violations, which is the case in this…?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, there have been many different types of sensitive documents over the history of the UN that have, in fact, leaked to the press and no one has faced any consequences for that, precisely because it was in the public interest.  At the same time, a lot of business of the UN simply could not be conducted, the sensitive diplomatic work we're supposed to do could not happen if there was the presumption that all documents would leak. 

  The decay or need for reform at the UN Department of Public Information was shown again on March 12, when DPI's UN Photo called Arancha Gonzalez of the ITC the UN National Security Adviser, here. This came the business day after March 9, when DPI's now flagship UN News mis-named the UN's scandal plagued peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic “MONUSCO” instead of its actual name MINUSCA. Photo here; DPI also mistakenly called Najat Rochdi a "High Commissioner." That came on the same day that DPI chief Alison Smale was criticized, both fairly and unfairly, in a General Assembly meeting held in the Trusteeship Council. Inner City Press, covering the meeting but only with the escort or minder that Smale's DPI requires of it but not more than a hundred less prolific, less critical and seldom present correspondents, put questions after Smale's holdover adviser Hua Jiang sped out of the meeting to a critic, then politely to Smale herself. She acknowledged little action to date on the criticisms, at least one of which should have been directed to the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management. But all bureaucratic niceties aside, how can a former New York Times editor have presided without explanation or response over a system of press accreditation with no rules, with blatant targeted restrictions, for more the six months? In October Smale said she acknowledged the need for the “courtesy” of a response to the Press' petitions - which has yet to come - and on March 9 seemed to indicate an acknowledgment of the need for rules. But where are they? After the reiterated exchange, Inner City Press demurred for days. On March 12 it reiterated the request for rules, to Smale, Guterres and his chief of staff, and Deputy Amina J. Mohammed: "Dear USG Smale, SG Guterres, DSG Mohammed & CdC Ribeiro: I am writing to formalize my oral request to USG Smale on March 9. Specifically, that Inner City Press be given an opportunity to be heard on why, after now more than two years of restricted access to the UN for having pursued the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery story into the UN Press Briefing Room, it should be restored to its long time office and resident correspondent status. Beyond my particular case - on which Special Rapporteur David A. Kaye wrote to DPI about the lack of due process, here. There is as I mentioned again to USG Smale on March 9 the need for UN rules not only on how a journalist gets due process before any eviction, but also for how a once-evicted journalist can pursue reinstatement. I have been told I am not even on any list, as correspondents who ask less and produce less than I do about the UN have come after I was evicted, and been made resident correspondents. I have covered, among other stories, Cameroon, DPRK, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Sudan, the new (Nov 2017) UN bribery case of Patrick Ho and CEFC China Energy and the issues raised by a UN Security Inspector openly praising a controversial GA speech (the Iran bomb fuse cartoon speech), in both 2016 and this month - and for this last story, I'm told I face further complaints or restrictions. Similarly lawlessly, as I live-streamed on Periscope a recent SG photo op with Egypt's new Ambassador I was suddenly told by UN Security that I could not record audio, even as UNTV recorded audio. This is Kafka-esque and must end, this month which marks the 25th month. I will be trying to cover the UNSC and CSW, with the absurdly required DPI minder or escort. A meeting on this should be held this week by USG Smale or one of you." 24 hours, nothing. We will continue on this. The deadline is now. Watch this site.


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