Inner City Press

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYT Azerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .


Share |   

Follow on TWITTER

More: InnerCityPro

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

US Power Meets Sri Lanka's Kumaratunga, Amid Torture, Press BANned at UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 -- The UN has said it is belatedly helping in Sri Lanka through its Peacebuilding Fund -- this after the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon was negligent and worse during the “Bloodbath on the Beach” in 2009.

   On April 27 Inner City Press asked Oscar Fernandez-Taranco,  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support and Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya about the Peacebuilding Fund's actual support to Sri Lanka. Video here.

On May 12, the US Mission to the UN issues this read-out:

"U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power met with former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, currently Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Office of Unity and National Reconciliation (OUNR), and Mano Tittawalla, Secretary-General for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms, on May 11, 2016, at the Sri Lankan Mission to the United Nations in New York. 
Ambassador Power reiterated U.S. support for Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts. She and Chairwoman Kumaratunga discussed the work and plans of the OUNR and the challenges and critical importance of bridging old divides and reconciling with the past. Ambassador Power described the moving experiences she has had in Sri Lanka meeting with the families of disappeared and missing people, and they discussed the work of the Office of Missing Persons, including its efforts to consult broadly across Sri Lankan civil society and minority communities.
They also discussed the importance of accountability. Ambassador Power emphasized the necessity of addressing human rights abuses and urged that transitional justice efforts move forward as soon as possible. She urged that any mechanism be accompanied by proactive outreach to keep the public informed and engaged. They spoke about the challenges ahead and timelines along which progress would be made.
Finally, they also discussed the Sri Lankan government’s ongoing efforts to counter corruption and overcome the economic challenges left behind by the previous government. They agreed on the urgent importance of delivering a 'democracy dividend' to the Sri Lankan people and stressed the importance of U.S.-Sri Lankan bilateral efforts to support trade and economic growth."

Some wondered why there was no mention of, for example, bombing the high school in Nagarkovil, or of the church killings in Navali.

On May 7, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said that in Sri Lanka:

"the practice of interrogation under physical and mental coercion still exists and severe forms of torture, albeit probably in less frequent instances, continues to be used.

Both old and new cases continue to be surrounded by total impunity. In addition, procedural norms that entrust the police with investigative powers over all criminal cases and, in the case of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, allow for prolonged arbitrary detention without trial, are still very much in place and open the door to — almost invite — police investigators to use torture and ill-treatment as a routine method of work.

I received many testimonies from victims and detainees who took the risk to speak out, despite concerns either for their own safety or their families. I was able to conduct thorough interviews and forensic examinations in a few cases, with the assistance of a forensic expert that accompanied me during my mission. I found the testimonies truthful and many were substantiated with physical evidence that is conclusive of torture. The forensic expert conducted a number of medical examinations that confirmed physical injuries consistent with the testimonies received. The forensic expert also analysed photographs taken shortly after the alleged torture and ill-treatment, and concluded they are diagnostic of severe physical torture.

The nature of the acts of torture consists mainly of transitory physical injuries caused by blunt instruments (essentially punches, slapping and, occasionally, blows with objects such as batons or cricket bats) which heal by themselves without medical treatment and leave no physical scars. There were also several accounts of brutal methods of torture, including beatings with sticks or wires on the soles of the feet (falanga); suspension for hours while being handcuffed, asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene and hanging of the person upside down; application of chili powder to face and eyes; and sexual violations including mutilation of the genital area and rubbing of chili paste or onions on the genital area. While these methods of torture were in some cases of short duration, in other cases torture occurred over a period of days or even weeks during interrogation."

This is what Ban Ki-moon and others have been praising, and retaliating against coverage of?

 On Sri Lanka Taranco said the Fund is helping Tamils resettle in the North; he specifically mentioned support to the Northern Provincial Council. This is ironic, in that a Northern Provincial Councilor has written to Taranco's boss Ban Ki-moon protesting Ban's and USG Cristina Gallach's ouster of Inner City Press. You'd think Ban would have responded to the letter - but no. And what about this letter, from GAP to the Power's US Mission? Vine here.

 On February 19, Inner City Press was thrown out of the UN, on two hours notice, after having put critical questions to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.  Audio of February 19 ouster here, video of April 16 eviction here and here.

On March 3 Dujarric's Deputy Farhan Haq refused for a second day to comment on a protest of the ouster, held at the UN Compound in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka. English; English II; Tamil; UN Q&A Video. That is today's UN: UNaccountable.

Now it gets worse. On March 1 in Sri Lanka from an elected representative of the Northern Provincial Council came a letter to Ban Ki-moon expressing "serious concern" at UN official Cristina Gallach's "unjust" seizure of Inner City Press' office and downgrading of accreditation. Online here.

  Ban Ki-moon never answered this letter from elected representatives in Northern Sri Lanka, despite his record there. Ban's spokespeople Dujarric and Haq openly refused Inner City Press' questions about this and other letters.

  Now we published an untruthful and Kafka-esque response that was provided, by the UN's "Resident Coordinator a.i." for Sri Lanka, UNICEF's Una McCauley, photo of letter here and embedded below.

 On March 23 Inner City Press tried to ask Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about it, UN transcript here (UN hasn't provided video 9 hours later)

Deputy Spokesman Haq: one more.

Inner City Press:   I was going to ask you about South-South News, but I'm going to ask you about Sri Lanka.  And I'm going to ask you about Sri Lanka because there's a letter that was released today by the resident representative in the country directed to the Northern Provincial Council, and it's a response to a letter that they wrote to Ban Ki-moon on…

Deputy Spokesman:  [cutting in] About you, right?

Inner City Press:  …on March 1st.  I'm going to ask what the letter is.  The letter says, "We are happy to tell you that the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information and Communications has, after serious consideration, decided to change the accreditation of Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press."  And the thing is, where it says they're happy to say, the thing that we're protesting in the letter was exactly this decision, which was taken without once speaking to me.  So I wanted to know…

Deputy Spokesman Haq: [cutting in again] Matthew, Matthew.

Inner City Press:  …was this letter, which was on UN letterhead, drafted by OLA… who wrote it?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  This is not a courtroom, and this is not your place to try your case.

Inner City Press:  There's a letter written to Ban Ki-moon, and this is the response.  I'm asking you.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  You have a situation you're dealing with… I am not aware of who writes those letters.  It comes out in the name of the resident [coordinator], so it's the resident [coordinator]'s letter.  [UN "fixed" Haq's inaccurate answers, which said "correspondent" instead. Who lies?]

Inner City Press:  Who [inaudible]… It’s a UNICEF official?

Deputy Spokesman:  It is a resident [coordinator]'s letter.  It states the facts.  And…

Question:  It says, I'm happy to tell you, in response to a protest letter.

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Yes, I understand you're unhappy with the use of the word "happy."  It's duly noted.

  This is the Farhan Haq who, while corrupt UNCA was lobbying to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN Press Briefing Room, said bravely, "He lies a lot." Really?

On March 23, Inner City Press asked UNICEF's Global Spokesperson Sarah Crowe:

"This is a Press request concerning the attached letter, in which UNICEF's Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Una McCauley purports to respond to the Northern Provincial Councilor's March 1, 2016 letter to theSecretary General expressing "serious concern" at UN official Cristina Gallach's 'unjust' seizure of Inner City Press' office and downgrading of my Resident Correspondent accreditation to “non-Resident” (which has Banned me from covering the Security Council, for example this week on Western Sahara).... As the 'Global Spokesperson for UNICEF, this is a request for immediate clarification, retraction, referral to Director Lake and action - including to ensure Inner City Press and I are restored to long time office and Resident Correspondent accreditation."

This was the response: "I understand that DPI is in touch with you on this."

Well, no. DPI threw Inner City Press out on February 19, for a pretext on January 29 (since shown to be a case of double standards), without ONCE being "in touch" with Inner City Press to hear its side of the story.

And since then DPI has made claims about access that are blatantly flase and reflect a total lack of understnading of what the passes they administer (badly) do and do not do.

 So why would a UNICEF official, the highest one in Sri Lanka, sign such a bogus letter - at the behest of DPI, to which it refers Inner City Press back? How low is the UN being brought, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, by this witchhunt?

As to Sri Lanka, it bears remembering that one of those who lobbied Gallach to throw Inner City Press out was and is Giampoalo Pioli, who rented an apartment to Palitha Kohona then granted Kohona's request as Sri Lanka's Ambassador for a "UN" (UNCA) screening of the Rajapaksa governmetn's war crimes denial film. That brought the UN low, and Gallach has continued it.

It's resulted in UNICEF - the UN's Res Rep in Sri Lanka - parroting:

"I am pleased to inform you that after careful consideration by the Under Secretary General for Communication and Public Information the status of Mr Matthew Russell Lee's accreditation has been changed. He now has the status as a non-Resident Correspondent and continues to attend UN Media briefings. This status will be reviewed in four month period."

   It is precisely this downgrade that the Northern Provincial Council and others have been protesting - so it is disingenuous at best to begin "I am pleased to inform you."

 Second, the decision USG Gallach took was taken without once speaking to Inner City Press - it cannot be considered "after careful consideration." In fact, it is USG Gallach who should be reviewed and disciplined for totally ignoring due process and censoring the Press.

Third, the UN / UNICEF letter ignores that Inner City Press under Gallach's order is being Banned from covering the Security Council, for example this week on Western Sahara. Video here. Just because the Security Council failed as tens of thousands were killed in Sri Lanka does not mean that Banning Inner City Press from covering it can itself be covered up.

 This disingenuous response is a new low for the UN in Sri Lanka, for DPA in New York -- whose USg Jeffrey Feltman is aware of the ouster of the Press and the letter -- for Ban Ki-moon and perhaps for USG Gallach (there are more and more low points for her - watch this site.)

 The underlying incident, which Gallach never describes in her February 19 letter, involves Inner City Press principled stand that the Press has a right to be in the UN Press Briefing Room, particularly to cover an event by an organization which has taken money from several of those who indicted (and some pleading guilty) to bribery in the UN and which gave one of the indicted, Ng Lap Seng, a photo op with Ban Ki-moon.

  Collusion with genocide - from Sri Lanka to Burundi to beyond - and escalating corruption: this is today's UN. We'll have more on this.

  On the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lanka's Sunday Times reports - and as set forth below, Ban's spokesperson refuses to answer:

"Eelam groups make plea for Lee: Sri Lanka is in the middle of a raging controversy at the UN over the world body’s suspension of the media credentials of a US journalist, Matthew Lee of Inner City Press (ICP). He has been advocating the rights of the Tamils in his daily blog. V. Rudrakumar, described as the prime minister of the transnational government of Tamil Eelam, has signed a letter, along with six Tamil expatriate organisations asking the UN to restore Lee’s credentials.

Following an incident where he tried to record a closed-door meeting of the UN Correspondents’ Association, Lee’s credentials as a resident correspondent were withdrawn and he was told to vacate his office in the UN building. But he has been issued a restricted non-resident media pass.

The letter, which is also signed by the US Tamil Political Action Council, the Ilankai Tamil Sangam USA, the Tamil Forum, New Jersey, the National Council of Canadian Tamils, People for Equality and Relief in Lanka and the World Thamil Organisation, has asked the UN to reconsider the decision to revoke Lee’s credentials.

'The coming months will be crucial for Sri Lanka at the UN as the government of Sri Lanka must take steps to implement the UNHRC resolution HRC/30/1 for truth, reconciliation and transitional justice. We are concerned that ICP’s inability to report on UN’s support for this process will be significantly limited with a temporary non-resident pass granted to Mr. Lee,' the letter says.

The letter also describes ICP as a 'key source of information for the victims in Sri Lanka in understanding how their affairs figure at the United Nations.' The letter has been addressed to the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Cristina Gallach, with a copy to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon."

   Ban's spokespeople refused to response on a letter from Jaffna. And now this? On March 21, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew.

  And then Haq just walked off, with the Reuters scribe smiling, Vine here.

  Note: The Tamils' letter was copied to US Ambassador Samantha Power and Secretary of State John Kerry, on which we'll have more as well.


On March 4, Inner City Press changed tacks and asked Ban's spokesperson Haq about a letter, video here.

UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  I want to ask about Sri Lanka, and I'm asking about a letter, physical letter, that was addressed to the Secretary-General from the Northern Provincial Council, which is a body that Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman, for example, has met with in the north.  The letter says that Inner City Press has been critical of UN-affiliated personalities who are alleged of sidelining or siding with genocidal commanders involved in war crimes against the Tamil people.  And finally, it says, we are shocked to learn that, on 19 February, the Under-Secretary-General of DPI (Department of Public Information), Cristina Gallach, signed a letter giving two hours to Mr. Lee, summarily expelling him from the premises, revoking his press pass…

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, Matthew, you're not expelled from the premises.  We are in the premises right now.  [cross talk]

Inner City Press:  Right.  Right. [What about office and Resident Correspondent pass?]

Deputy Spokesman:  I see you in front of me.  [cross talk]

Inner City Press: I know that you like that point.  The end of the sentence is revoking his UN resident correspondent pass and access to his office.  And so I am asking you, as a response to a letter from the Northern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka, what is your response to the letter?  They also say there was no due process...  the combination of the two, the lack of coverage of, for example, Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar's dealings in the white flag killings, Mr. Shavendra Silva being a senior peacekeeping adviser to Ban Ki-moon, followed by this act without due process, unprecedented and totally disproportionate penalty...  So I'm asking you, what's the response to the letter?

Deputy Spokesman:  I have no response to the letter, and I have no comment on this.  As you're well aware, the concerns that we have about the peace process in Sri Lanka, the… and the end of the fighting are a separate matter from your particular issues with the Department of Public Information, on which I would have no comment.

[cross talk]

Inner City Press:  And what's your concern of a journalist being in this room…  That's what I'd like to know.  What is so extreme about a journalist being in this room and saying, when DSS (Department of Safety and Security) asked me to leave, I'll leave that justifies the things that are described in this letter?  Can you explain?

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, I am not going to get into why you have a problem with your accreditation with the Department of Public information.  You have an issue… [cross talk]

Inner City Press:  Well, they've asked Ban Ki-moon.  You speak for Ban Ki-moon.  Is Ban Ki-moon going to answer the letter?  [cross talk]

Deputy Spokesman:  The decision on your accreditation is a decision taken by the Department of Public Information.  [cross talk] It's based on actions, having to do with actions that you took, indeed, in this very room, that were hindering…  [cross talk]

Inner City Press:  In a meeting that wasn't listed as closed, not in the UN Journal of anywhere else as closed.  I'm just asking.  Should they write to Cristina Gallach?  They've written to the wrong person…  [cross talk]

Deputy Spokesman:  You can say whatever you want, but it's not my place to argue with you about the decision…

Inner City Press:  It's a letter to Ban Ki-moon.  You speak for Ban Ki-moon.  So I'm asking you for a response to the letter.

Sri Lanka NPC Letter to Ban Ki-moon Protesting USG Gallach Stripping ICP Of Resident Correspondent Accredit... by Matthew Russell Lee

Deputy Spokesman:  This is a decision taken… you can talk over me as much as you want but it doesn't preclude the reality of it.

Question:  No, I see you trying to move… if you'll just stay stationary, I'll be quiet.

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  Yes.  Nabil?

  On March 3 Inner City Press again endeavored to ask Sri Lanka questions, including about the UN's role in killings there. Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Farhan Haq tried to PRE cut off the questions. Video here, from the UN transcript

  This is a new low for the UN. From the March 2 UN transcript

In a letter that gave Inner City Press only two hours, Ban's Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach told Inner City Press to surrender the key to its long-time shared office.

  That evening eight UN Security guards under Deputy Chief Michael McNulty physically threw Inner City Press and its laptop out onto First Avenue in below freezing weather, without a coat. Audio here; video as UN Security turns off Inner City Press' Periscope livestream, here.

   On February 22, UN Security official Matthew Sullivan told Inner City Press it could not even be signed into UN headquarters as a guest, it was Banned from all UN premises. Audio here.

  Since then Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta urged Gallach to reverse her decision, taken without one speaking to Inner City Press concerning its January 29 attempt to cover, to pursue its series on UN corruption under Ban, an event the UN Correspondents Association held in the UN Press Brief Room. Video of that event - used against Inner City Press with no opportunity to be heard.

  Business Insider was told, by an unnamed Gallach spokesperson, that it was fine to throw out a 10-year journalist at the UN without any opportunity to be heard, article here, and on Yahoo Finance.

A petition to restore Inner City Press to access to the UN, and to its office under its long-time but stripped Resident Correspondent accreditation, is here, with 675 signatures as February 29 and comments.

The DC-based Government Accountability Project, which defends UN and other whistleblowers, has written that the ouster of Inner City Press is “retaliatory in response to independent, critical journalism.” (Dujarric, who previously “lent” the UN Press Briefing Room to his native France's President Francois Hollande, said he disagrees with GAP.)

  Ban Ki-moon, whose “victory tour” of blood-soaked northern Sri Lanka Inner City Press covered and was never forgiven for by Ban's UN, was the target of a demonstration in Jaffa for the ouster of Inner City Press.

Handwritten signs at the Jaffna protest cited back to questions about Ban accepting a Sri Lanka war crimes suspect Shavendra Silva as one of his Senior Advisers on Peacekeeping, and another suspect Palitha Kohona's involvements with the UN including the White Flag Killings with Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.

  Inner City Press reported how Kohona got UNCA under current president Giampaoli Pioli to screen a war crimes denial film in the UN; Pioli has been Kohona's landlord but did not recuse himself or consult other UNCA member members including, at that time, Inner City Press (which quit and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access.)

  See photo here from the demonstration outside the UN compound in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.  There's video. An anonymous troll Twitter account which counts among its few followers Cristina Gallach, Stephane Dujarric, UNCA board members and Reuters' Lou Charbonneau says darkly this was not a spontaneous protest - whatever that means. The UN's Censorship Alliance. Haq on March 2:

On March 1 Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here

  A corruption scandal which Inner City Press is pursuing threatened to undermine Ban's plan to run for President of South Korea.

   Macao-based business man Ng Lap Seng, now under house arrest, bought a photo op with Ban, giving tens of thousands of dollars to the UN Correspondents Association, though South South News. (This is why Inner City Press sought to cover the January 29 event in the UN Press Briefing Room, openly Periscoping an event that was nowhere listed as Closed.)

Indicted Frank Lorenzo got South South News into the UNTV archives. Spokesman Dujarric has twice refused to explain this, despite being in charge of UNTV at the time.

   The UN's response has been to order an audit by its own Office of Internal Oversight Services into all UN deals with Ng's Sun Kian Ip Foundation and also-indicted Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation.

 Inner City Press has shown: Ban's wife and his adviser Vijay Nambiar, of Sri Lanka “fame,” were at the FOUNDING of this corrupt Global Sustainability Foundation. And Inner City Press after reporting this is thrown out of the UN?


Share |

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

Click for re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-303, UN, NY 10017 USA

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-2015 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]