UN, CPJ on Pariah States N. Korea and on Sri Lanka,
Buying Tickets, Iran's Eye
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 16 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists on
February 16 called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to be more
forceful about the importance of press freedom. Inner City Press
asked CPJ's Asia expert Bob Dietz about what Mr. Ban and CPJ have
done as the Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has closed
down opposition newspapers, reporters have been killed and websites
blocked. Video here,
from Minute 40:08.
Dietz said that
"no one knows how to handle the direction in which the [Sri
Lankan] government is going, which is not friendly to the media."
He said it might join the "pariah states" of Myanmar,
"Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe," but for feisty
journalists who put themselves at risk.
as to what CPJ
does, Dietz said "right now we
are hanging back with a lot of
people," trying to figure out whether to "come down hard or
engage in quiet advocacy."
City Press asked Dietz for more specifics
about this "quiet"
approach, which the UN seems to share, in the most benign
interpretation of Ban's visit in May 2009 after what even the UN
called the "bloodbath on the beach" and since.
Children and Armed Conflict mandate, which belatedly sent Patrick
Cammaert to Sri Lanka in December, never had him brief the Press
afterwards. Radhika Coomaraswamy, when Inner City Press asked her
about this silence last week, said that Cammaert went to Europe to
get married after his trip, then it was "too late" to brief
the press about his visit.
Dietz said that
the opposition press in Sri Lanka asks that particular journalists'
cases "not be publicized," as it would only make things
worse. "Just get us out of here," Dietz said such
journalists ask, adding the CPJ helps with plane tickets.
correspondent remarked afterwards is that "quiet advocacy is
what diplomats do, not journalists or their organizations."
Masked rally for press freedom in Sri Lanka,
Jan 2009, UN and CPJ's tickets out not shown
asked CPJ's deputy director Robert Mahoney about the UN's own envoy
to Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah having called on a "moratorium"
on Somali journalists reporting on the killing of civilians by the
African Union peacekeepers of AMISOM.
it is up to
journalists to make their own editorial decisions. Ironically, Ban
Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky has, at least in his first month
on the job, said such things as "that's not a story."
on the podium
was Newsweek journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, about whom CNN's
Fareed Zakaria devoted the foreword to CPJ's study. As Bahari spoke,
a representative from Iran's Mission to the UN sat in the UN press
hall's front row, taking notes.
mission has invited UN
correspondents -- including this one -- to a celebration of Iran's
national day on February 18. Inner City Press told Bahari about the
event, encouraging him to come and cover it. Watch this space.
three hours after the CPJ press conference on its report, "Attacks
on the Press in 2009," which names North Korea as the world's
most censored country, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's senior
advisor Kim Won-soo and political advisor Lynn Pascoe if they had
even raised press freedom during their recent trip to Pyongyang. Video here.
Mr. Pascoe said. Inner City Press asked Mr. Kim to respond for Mr.
Ban on CPJ's wider call to be more forceful on press freedom. While
he answered about UNDP in North Korea, he did not answer on press
freedom. Inner City Press has at UN noon briefings asked for Mr. Kim
to come and answer questions more often. We'll see.
In another UN footnote, CPJ's genial Mr. Dietz granted
an interview to a student reporter, Melissa Best, whose piece should
air as part of WNYC's Radio Rookies program. Ms. Best, who aspired to
be a US diplomat, told Inner City Press that North Korea's nuclear
ambitions might call for more stick and less carrots. The show should
air -- and Internet -- in June...
* * *
Corruption of Citigroup and BofA, Obiangs Cite Obama, ExxonMobil's
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 15 -- Ten days after the release by the U.S. Senate
of a reporting on evasion by the son of Equatorial Guinea's President
for Life Teodoro Nguema
anti-money laundering controls by and at Citigroup, Bank of America,
Wachovia / Wells Fargo and others, the Obiang regime fired back,
calling the report racist and citing in its defense the election of
Inner City Press is putting the Obiangs' memo online, here.
exhaustively shows how Teodorin and his lawyers moved tens of
millions of dollars through Citibank and Wachovia (owned by Wells
Fargo since the financial meltdown), and used accounts at Bank of
America, City National and other banks. The report described how
over $100 million into the United States using wire transfer systems
at just two U.S. financial institutions, Wachovia Bank and Citibank.
Neither system had been programmed to detect or block wire transfers
bearing his name. In 2009... Citibank declined to take the same
action due to projections that identifying, freezing, and
investigating these wire transfers would generate too much work for
its anti-money laundering staff...From 2004 to 2007, Mr. Obiang used
accounts at three U.S. banks, Union Bank of California, Bank of
America, and Citibank, often with Mr. Berger’s assistance, to
deposit, transfer and spend nearly $10 million. Most of these funds
were wire transferred from accounts in Equatorial Guinea held in the
name of Mr. Obiang or two EG companies he controlled, Somagui
Forestal and Socage."
Government of Equatorial Guinea in a communique sent to the Press on
February 15, the President's Day holiday in the U.S., argues that
to Equatoguinean legislation, as occurs exactly in the most of the
world, the natural and legal persons, as occurs in this case with the
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, are perfectly authorized to do
business and maintain other types of jobs at the margin of their
"marginal" business includes a $30 million mansion in
Malibu, a jet and recording studio, among other things. Previously he
and his president for life father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo moved
their money, like Pinochet, into the U.S. through Riggs Bank.
and its Fair Finance Watch dug into these connections, including to
Spain's Santander Bank and HSBC, when the Obiang disgraced Riggs was
being sold to PNC Bank. Click here for coverage
in Le Monde, in French.
Federal Reserve did little at that
time. With the major banks it regulates now implicated again in
corrupt money laundering, what will the supposedly chastened Federal
President for life Obiang, speaking at the UN, Citi
and BofA not shown
response complains at the Senate report deals only with African
corruption -- Angola with HSBC, Gabon's Omar Bongo with Citigroup,
Nigeria's Abubakar with Suntrust and the ubiquitous Citibank -- and
not any other continent. In this, it echoes the defenders of Sudan's
Omar al Bashir, that the International Criminal Court and its
prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo have so far indicted only African
Guinea goes further. Its cover email to Inner City Press argues that
"it can be considered as an authentic insult to Africa, and more
so after the people of the United States have voted in the majority
for a President of African origin."
letters, Equatorial Guinea screams that
Africa and in Equatorial Guinea we are tired of BEING TREATED FOR
CENTURIES LIKE INHUMAN BEASTS, ON WHICH ALL THE BRUTAL AND EVIL
BEHAVIOURS POSSIBLE ARE BLAMED. This is again so verifiable in this
case that even different media of the United States have written
these days, in regards to this case, THAT THE FAMILY OBIANG PRACTICES
ICC's and Ocampo's indictees, Jean Pierre Bemba the previous Vice
President of the Congo, argued during his campaign against Joseph
Kabila that, "I am not a cannibal!"
defense that's closest to the mark is that
also wish to put on the record that the United States is the country
from which comes the highest foreign investment in Equatorial Guinea,
which exceeds 12 billion USA dollars, and that no American
corporation has complained of fraudulent behaviour of the Government.
We also expect the Senate Subcommittee to be consistent with the
criteria of the North American companies."
should it be
the other way around? Major U.S. investors with the Obiangs include
ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Hess Corporation, and Noble Energy. We will
have more on all this.