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On Syria ICRC Acts While Guterres Pontificates Without Citing Turkey As UN Refuses To Say When He Was Told

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UN GATE, Oct 14 – Back on February 15 the UN's Syria envoy Geir O. Pedersen released a transcript of his "on the record" press breakfast in Geneva, see below. Now in September, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has tried to stay on track to a corrupt second term as SG by naming a "UN Board of Inquiry in northwest Syria," to be led in its secretive work by Nigerian Lt General Chikadibia Obiakor.

 On October 14 from ICRC:  An update from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the situation in north-east Syria:   The ongoing hostilities are having a devastating impact on the civilian population, with tens of thousands of people fleeing their towns and villages near the border. The immediate area around where hostilities are taking place may result in the displacement of 300,000 people who are living in main cities in two governorates, Hassakeh and Raqqa.  Water shortages are a major concern that the ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working to address. There are concerns that Hassakeh city (approximate population 400,000) may run dry as the main water station serving the area has been affected, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and several emergency measures have been taken to provide clean water from alternative sources."

 On October 14 from UN Spokes- / hatchetman Stephane Dujarric, this which we publish in full: "The Secretary-General is gravely concerned over the military developments in northeast Syria, which have already reportedly resulted in many civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 160,000 civilians. He continues to urge for maximum restraint and stresses that any military operation must fully respect international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.       The Secretary-General calls for immediate de-escalation and urges all parties to resolve their concerns through peaceful means.     The Secretary-General emphasizes that civilians not taking part in hostilities must be protected at all times. Likewise, civilian infrastructure must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law. He recognizes in particular the vulnerabilities of internally displaced persons. He further stresses that sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need must be guaranteed, including through the cross-border modality, in order to allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to continue to carry out its critical work in northern Syria.      He also notes with serious concern that the current military operations could lead to the unintended release of individuals associated with ISIL, with all the consequences this could entail.     The Secretary-General recalls Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which stresses that any solution to the Syria crisis must reaffirm the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.        Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General  New York, 14 October 2019."

 Meanwhile, the UN won't even say if Guterres was told before or after the assault. The UN, or at least Guterres, is corrupt - and of their censorship of Press there is no doubt.

  For day Guterres' spokesmen have been dodging questions about Syria, trying to service both Turkish state media in the briefing room and Qatar state media all over. Security Council president for October Jerry Matjila of South Africa, who unlike his predecessor as PR Mutuboba has acquiesced in Guterres' censorship of Press, at 3 pm on October 9 said the Council will meet on the morning of October 10, but only behind closed doors. He declined to say who the briefer is, and those present giggled instead of pressing.

Now this from MSF: ""Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in northeastern Syria remain ready to provide medical care after the Turkish military launched operations. Our teams in Tal Abyad are preparing for a potential increase of patients linked to the conflict while our teams in Ain Al Arab (Kobane), Ain Issa, Al Malikiyah (Derek), Raqqa and Tal Tamer stand by and are ready to provide assistance in case of need.     "We have seen people being displaced from locations along the border due to the conflict and are extremely worried that the military intervention will threaten the safety and wellbeing of the Syrian people.     "MSF calls for restraint and respect for international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of the civilian population, hospitals, ambulances and medical personnel as well as humanitarian workers."

  Now on September 27 corrupt Guterres, banning Inner City Press from UNGA for asking questions, issues this: "The Secretary-General met with H.E. Mr. Walid Al-Moualem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Syrian Arab Republic.     The Secretary-General underscored the importance of launching the recently agreed credible and inclusive constitutional committee in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva Communiqué, and making progress on confidence building measures.      New York, 27 September 2019." Guterres is corrupt: his UN has hired a Moualem relative, Inner City Press exclusive on which we will have more.

  The panel's other members, who will not report publicly:  Major General Fernando Ordóñez (Peru) and Pierre Ryter (Switzerland); Janet Lim of Singapore Maria Santos Pais of Guterres' Portugal, being kept on the UN payroll after being dumped as Rights of Children envoy. Big Tony tries to keep people quiet, and to erase not only his finger prints but others', like Obiakor's. Inner City Press which Guterres had roughed up and banned now 438 days will have more on this.

Back on February 15, the transcript had this, referring to Pedersen's off the record session: "Question: Thank you, your off-the-record was very frank and this is good too, my concern is about Idleb, since you explained that in some detail, is this going to be important for you, right now, and how much attention? And would it have been better if the Syrian government were in control rather than these folks?     GOP: Let me say the following that obviously the agreement between Russia and Turkey, I believe it was in October last year, is extremely important.  I believe that you know, it helped us to avoid a humanitarian disaster, and I have been following very closely, of course, the discussions between Russia and Turkey on this and I am  pleased to see that the focus now is on finding a peaceful solution to the crisis, and of course this is a UN’s appeal, is that we have to do whatever is in our power to make sure that we don’t end up in a situation where you will have a new humanitarian disaster of enormous proportion.  So far, we follow this, we understand of course that the situation with HTS controlling the area is not something that can be sustained for the future, but pleased to see that there is a commitment to find a peaceful solution to the crisis." It's still more than most UN envoys - and significantly more than UNSG Antonio Guterres, who's had the Press roughed up and banned for 306 days and counting and gives spin sessions to hand picked scribes like Voice of America and Al Jazeera. Now on May 6, Guterres through his hatchet- / spokesman Stephane Dujarric issues this canned statement: "The Secretary-General is following with great concern the intensifying hostilities in the de-escalation area of northwestern Syria involving Syrian Government forces and their allies, armed opposition forces, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. He is alarmed by reports of aerial attacks on population centers and civilian infrastructure resulting in hundreds of civilian dead and injured and over 150,000 newly displaced persons.     On 5 May, three health facilities were reportedly hit by airstrikes, bringing the total to at least seven struck since 28 April. Nine schools have reportedly been hit since 30 April, and schools in many areas have been closed until further notice.     The Secretary-General urges all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians. He calls for an urgent de-escalation of the situation as the holy month of Ramadan begins and urges the parties to recommit fully to the ceasefire arrangements of the memorandum signed on 17 September 2018. He urges the Astana guarantors to ensure that this takes place.     Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General  New York, 6 May 2019." This as Guterres prepares to fly off on another junket, to Vanuatu and Fiji, a question on which Inner City Press submitted in writing on the morning of May 6 without any answer elevent hours later. Guterres is corrupt. On January 21, US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino has issued this read-out: "Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke on the phone today with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.  They discussed ongoing U.S.-Turkish engagement as part of the deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria.  Secretary Pompeo reiterated the commitment of the United States to addressing Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Syria border, while emphasizing the importance that the United State places on the protection of forces that worked with the United States and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS." We'll have more on this - despite censorship and no answers from UNSG Antonio Guterres. Here was OPCW "On 24 November 2018, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) received information pertaining to an allegation of chemical weapons use in Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic, and began monitoring the situation. The Director-General of the OPCW, H.E. Mr Fernando Arias, informed OPCW Member States of the allegation and invited all parties that may have information to share it with the OPCW Technical Secretariat.  In early December, an advanced team was deployed to Syria to collect further information.  Since then, consultations with the Syrian authorities have been on-going. The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) deployed in early January to further establish facts regarding the allegation. The FFM continues to independently collect and analyse information and will report its findings to States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. All measures continue to be taken to ensure the safety and security of OPCW experts and personnel involved." When the Presidency of the UN Security Council was taken over by the Dominican Republic on January 2 its José Singer held a press conference to take questions. But it was only from the media NOT banned by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. And in the mere seven questions taken there was not one about anything in Africa, which makes up over 60% of the Council's agenda. Nothing on the expulsion of Guterres' envoy Nicholas Haysom from Somalia. Nothing on the disenfranchisement of 1.2 million in the DR Congo, where the UN has (mis) spent billions of dollars. Nothing on Cameroon, or Burundi, or Gabon or Togo. Nothing on the Dominican Republic's neighbor Haiti. It took a mere 22 minutes, the shortest and most vacuous ever, including Singer's opening statement. The set-aide first question was not on Africa; there was a question about the UN Charter and a media invitation to visit Gaza. Guterres, who had roughed up and banned Inner City Press as it inquired into his failure in Cameroon, where human lives were exchanged for Budget Commitee favors, has deployed his UN Global Censor Alison Smale to try to ensure that his failures and conflicts of interest can't be asked about. They are asked about by Inner City Press in writing, and not answered - no answers from Spokesmen Farhan Haq or Stephane Dujarric today. But they cannot stop reporting. An hour earlier - in a ceremony which lasted longer than the correspondents' questions - when the five new UN Security Council members joined for two year terms on January 2, the foreign minister of the Dominican Republic, Council President for January, gave a longish speech in Spanish which while stressing Latin American issued did not mention next door Haiti. There, the UN brought cholera which killed at least 10,000 people; UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has not raised or paid in restitution any significant amount. Whether this issue gets address during January, or even in the next two years, remains to be seen. In the ceremony, presided over by outgoing member Kazakhstan, the Permanent Representatives of Germany, Indonesia, South Africa and Belgium carried their flags forward and planted them, with Indonesia and then South Africa waving their flags. Inner City Press covered this process in previously, for example two years ago with Bolivia, before Guterres amid Inner City Press questions about his failure on Cameroon and links with UN briber China Energy Fund Committee President had Inner City Press roughed up and banned since. This should be addressed - watch this site.  A month ago, when Cote d'Ivoire Ambassador Kacou Houadja Léon Adomu held a Press-less press conference on December 3, he listed as Africa issues to be address during the month South Sudan, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and the Sahel. No one present asked about Burundi much less Cameroon, and Inner City Press was unable, being banned without hearing or appeal. Kacou Houadja Léon Adomu would not answer on North Korea human rights if his country will sign the draft letter for a Council meeting, nor how it would stand in any procedural vote. Many of the questions could have been addressed by just looking at the Program of Work. Inner City Press has more questions - watch this site. Troublingly, the UN allows in Morocco state media, which got a question from its perspective. Inner City Press still banned from the UN without any due process or appeal gets questions answered by the International Monetary Fund which it covers, on Yemen and Sri Lanka. At the IMF briefing, spokesman Gerry Rice was asked about US sanctions on Venezuela gold sales. In New York, Ambassador Ma reiterated that China is against all unilateral sanctions. So what will the Council be doing when the new US sanctions on Iran kick in? Watch this site - we continue the UN as actively as anyone. Last month Bolivia's Ambassador 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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