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As UN Tells Press It Can't Ask Questions, Anything But Torture OK With Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- When Inner City Press on February 19 was told to leave the UN on two hours notice, after covering the organization for ten years, it came as a surprise. But now we know some of what happened behind the scenes, see below.

 And on May 2, when Inner City Press with its reduced accreditation had to ask the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit to swipe it through the turnstile to access the second floor and stake out the meetings on UN Security Council reform and ECOSOC's “Integration Segment” with Ban Ki-moon as a speaker, the MALU staffer told UN Security, he has to stay there.

"There" was an area by the couches across from the entrance to the ECOSOC and Trusteeship Council Chambers. Even under these constraints, and with UN Security three times intervening to demand to know why Inner City Press was there -- while other UNCA correspondents strolled by on the way to the Delegates' Lounge with each other -- Inner City Press managed to speak with sources about the upcoming Security Council trip, meeting with Morocco about Western Sahara, and Security Council reform.

 Then came a more Kafka-esque request. “They need to come to you,” Inner City Press was told, referring to the diplomats it had been speaking with. Inner City Press, under this regime of Ban Ki-moon and Cristina Gallach, is not to initiate contact much less ask a question.

   This is targeting. Down the hall, other journalists attempted to approach Security Council diplomats; one UNCA big wig recently bear-hugged a Latin American Permanent Representative who turned around and demanded, Who are you?

  But under the Ban and Gallach regime, the day before World Press Freedom Day, Inner City Press was told not to approach anyone with a question.

And so on World Press Freedom Day May 3, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who implied that anything short of torture is okay, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  Maybe I'm missing something.  Yesterday with this reduced pass, I went to cover the Secretary-General's discussion in the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Chamber) chamber.  I asked for MALU to come; they came.  I'm getting to the point here.  The point is, number one, even with a MALU escort, I was three times asked by guards what I was doing there with this pass.  And finally I was told I'm not allowed to talk to diplomats there.  I have to wait for them to come and talk to me, which is not really the way a staking out a meeting works.  And so I wanted to know, how… it seemed totally contrary to, one, what other journalists can do, but two, to what journalism is.  Meaning, so these appear to be the restrictions that have been placed on me, and I wanted to know, is that the case?  Was there some misunderstanding, excuse me, on my part?  Or is there some… what am I missing here, that you claim there is a respect for freedom of the press if I'm being stopped three times by guards and being told not to talk to diplomats.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Matthew, I think if there are particular issues, you need to deal with them with MALU.  I think the Secretary-General's message is focused on those journalists who are imprisoned, who are tortured, who are vilified.  I think your issue is one of access and one of accreditation.  So I think they are two separate cases.  You're here.  I patiently answer every question you've asked… you ask.  So again, if there's… if it's a personal issue of access or what a guard may have said to you, I would encourage you to deal with it bilaterally.

Inner City Press:  It seems systematic.  Three times, guards came and said you can't be here and stood in front of me while the Secretary-General walked by.  I understand it's not torture, but I'm saying it is in the UN.

Spokesman:  That's my understanding… Yes.  There are rules and regulations and your pass…  [Cross talk]

Inner City Press:  Why can some journalists…

Spokesman:  Matthew, I'm not going to… I'm not going to…

Inner City Press  I was told, don't ask questions to diplomats.

Spokesman:  Khalas. 

   On May 2 as Ban and his entourage came out of ECOSOC for a 10:40 am meeting with May's Security Council president, Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, suddenly a UN Security guard approached Inner City Press and demanded, “Are you supposed to be here with your pass?”

   Inner City Press pointed at the MALU minder, but the UN Security guard didn't move. His role, it emerged, was to block or “box out” Inner City Press while Ban Ki-moon walked by.

Why? So that no question could be asked?

Inner City Press has covered the UN for ten years. But now in the final year of Ban Ki-moon, which his new censor in chief Cristina Gallach (named in the UN bribery case audit), there is open targeting of the Press, right in front of Ban Ki-moon. We'll have more on this.

The incident used as a pretext in the ouster letter signed by Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach, Inner City Press' attempt to cover a January 29 event in the UN Press Briefing Room which was nowhere listed as closed, was the type of principled disagreement about journalistic rights that led Inner City Press to refuse an order to leave a briefing by French President Francois Hollande ostensibly only for the traveling French press.

Inner City Press wasn't thrown out then. But something had and has changed.

  While Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, when asked about the ouster, said “That is not my decision,” those close to him say that this crackdown on the Press was discussed at a meeting of Ban's senior leadership team.

   Ban's waning tenure at the UN is embroiled in scandal not only of peacekeeper rapes under Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous but more dangerously for Ban the scandal of bribery at the UN by Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng, of former President of the General Assembly John Ashe and members of Ban's Secretariat.

    The Office of Internal Oversight Services audit occasioned by the indictment of Ng, Ashe and others who had since pleaded guilty, including Francis Lorenzo of South South News which still under Gallach has its UN office, named Gallach as negligent, at best. See audit at Paragraphs 37-40 and 20(b).

 Gallach did no due diligence in allowing Ng's Global Sustainability Foundation to hold a corrupt event in the UN Visitors Lobby, with Ban present. Gallach did no due diligence of Ng's Global Sustainability Foundation sponsoring the UN's slavery memorial.

   Gallach, who had found that some under her in the Department of Public Information whom she had ordered to sign the ouster letter refused to, said that Inner City Press had broken the rules and norms. As time has gone on, she had been unable to specify which rules - in fact, when directly asked she refused to provide a copy of the rule she claims to be relying on.

  Ban heard about the impending ouster of Inner City Press... and did nothing. His supporters point out to Inner City Press that Ban also did not speak in favor of it. We'll have more on this.

   Spain on the other hand, which got Gallach the position, has as part of the leverage it has as a Security Council member during the selection of the next Secretary General decided to drop Gallach and seek to put a different Spanish official in a different, more substantive post: the Office of Disarmament, current run by Ban's senior adviser Kim Won-soo (who, when asked about the ouster of Inner City Press and how it makes Ban looks, said only, “You have to talk with Cristine”).

   But even if Spain which unwisely put the under-qualified Gallach in the DPI position now sees the error of its ways, the reality is that Ban Ki-moon's UN, in the midst of a corruption scandal, ousted and evicted the critical Press which is pursuing the story.

   As Inner City Press learned more about how Gallach got the position, and how she (mis) used it, the retaliation grew - to the point of throwing Inner City Press' files in the street on April 16, video here. Next, Gallach's staff tore down the sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access on the door of Room S-303, which opposes censorship, and have until now ignored Inner City Press' formal request regarding its office in S-303. Others said it was on hold, despite French and Moroccan moves. But Gallach is getting more and more desperate and retaliatory, and Ban still claims, despite the above, “That is not my decision.” We'll have more on all this.


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