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At UN, Ban's Podium Installed To Toast UN Spouse's Book, UNscheduled

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issues a daily schedule, purporting to be transparent. But when Inner City Press witnessed Ban's personal podium being set up on July 22, there was nothing on Ban's schedule, after his meeting with Boris Johnson.

    Who would Ban be toasting, that couldn't be listed in his public schedule? Well, this “updated” notice was provided to Inner City Press by a disgusted recipient:

"TODAY, Friday, July 22nd at 5:30 pm, with Dr. Cass Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, who will discuss his new best seller The World According To Star Wars, in the UNCA room

** UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will attend at 5:30 pm to welcome the author and will make remarks."

Last time we're aware of Ban Ki-moon speaking about the book of a UN spouse was for the wife of former President of the General Assembly John Ashe, video here, subsequently indicted for UN bribery and then killed by his own barbell, rest in peace.

Why was this not on Ban's schedule?

To add to or abet the lack of transparency, the person in UNCA who is given the Resident Correspondent pass taken from Inner City Press, while asking no question, said to not photograph. Not photograph the set up of a Ban power play left of his schedule?

When US Ambassador Samantha Power came to the UN Security Council stakeout back on May 26, she took questions on Syria, Lebanon, Ukraine and the Committee to Protect Journalists - but none on Africa, which makes up 70% of the Security Council's agenda. (Inner City Press tried at the end, “Question on Burundi? Does the US think the Arusha talks are inclusive enough?” but to no avail.)

    The CPJ question was about the UN's NGO Committee voting “No” on CPJ, after a question and answer period that Inner City Press covered (and Periscoped) back then. Power indicated that the US will be bringing CPJ to a vote in the full Economic and Social Council, as it has on other NGOs which Inner City Press has covered, not without success.

Now the vote is set for July 25, according to CPJ.

On July 22, CPJ gushed about the US Department of Defense's changed Law of War Manual, on an issue ("unprivileged belligerents") that only Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's UN about, on September 1, 2015. (Ban, typically, had nothing to say.)

CPJ has said, "The new language is a seismic shift for the U.S. military.  This affirmation of journalists' right to report armed conflicts freely and from all sides is especially welcome at a time when governments, militias, and insurgent forces around the world are routinely flouting the laws of war." Like US-made cluster bombs in Yemen?

  But there is another irony here. CPJ has criticized the Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom - which the UN has selected to take over the shared office space it revoked in retaliation from Inner City Press for seeking to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, which Inner City Press saw and sees as related to the UN's expanding Ng Lap Seng bribery scandal.

  After the UN ousted Inner City Press on February 19, the Government Accountability Project wrote to the US Mission urging it to counter this retaliation. Letter here. Inner City Press tried to ask about the letter, to Power here and then at the State Department briefing in Washington (it did ask, here.)

   After the UN threatened to evict Inner City Press' investigative files (and before it did so, on April 16), GAP wrote to Ban Ki-moon urging him to call off this retaliation. Letter here.
The revocation of Inner City Press' long time shared office has left it unable to cover events like the July 20 High Level Political Forum, click here for that.

   After the UN, having through channels indicted it would the office space empty until Inner City Press served out its four month purgatory, moved to give the office to Egypt's Akhbar Elyom, a media CPJ has criticized, Inner City Press re-raised it to CPJ.

Until now, it is UNclear what CPJ's inquiry has been.

It seems CPJ only spoke with UNCA, the United Nations Correspondents Association with which CPJ partners and whose president screened the Sri Lankan government's war crimes denial film, without check with then-board member Inner City Press, after this president served as the Sri Lankan ambassador's landlord. Click here for that.

It was UNCA's January 29 event in the UN Press Briefing Room which Inner City Press has been evicted from the UN for seeking to cover, on the issue of UNCA connections to the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case..

The UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression submitted a formal letter to UN Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach, here. Two months later, Gallach sent a response, here, falsely claiming an "altercation" in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, disproved by video, in an incident she never once spoke to Inner City Press about the incident before ousting it.

So does CPJ stand for the right to freedom of expression and of the Press in the UN?

We further note that this same UNCA set out this notice to its members, provided to Inner City Press by a whistleblowing and disgusted member:

"The UN Correspondents Association will host its first event with Dr. Cass Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, to discuss his new best seller The World According To Star Wars, TOMORROW, Friday, July 22nd at 5:30pm in the UNCA room S-310.

The event will be moderated by our colleague Ali Barada (UNCA Vice President), and will be followed by a Q&A and discussion with the audience.    We count on your attendance."

For ten years as Inner City Press covered the UN in ever greater detail, showing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Herve Ladsous' inept overseeing and cover up of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, disparate treatment in Mali, dalliance with genocide in Sri Lanka and prospectively Burundi, impunity for cholera deaths in Haiti and until now for UN lead poisoning in Kosovo and cravenly pro-Saudi position on Yemen amid the airstrikes, it was never thrown out of the UN.

Now it has been, and even as groups like the Government Accountability Project tell Ban to reverse the eviction and give Inner City Press back its long time office and Resident Correspondent pass, Ban's UN tellingly move to award Inner City Press' office to Egypt state media Al-Akhbar / Akhbar Elyoum.  Tweeted photograph here.

On May 19, a sign for "Al Akhbar Yom" went up on Inner City Press' office - Inner City Press has STILL never seen the correspondent being given the stolen office. The UN says Resident Correspondents must be at the UN three days a week, but Inner City Press has never seen this person, much less asking a question in the UN noon briefing.

This is the journalism that Ban Ki-moon and his Cristina Gallach want and reward. By taking away Inner City Press' office, it is now required to have a minder and is told to not ask diplomats questions. This is censorship.

Akhbar Elyom has been used to finger for imprisonment non-state journalists in Egypt. For example, in July 2015 Aboubakr Khallaf, the founder and head of the independent Electronic Media Syndicate (EMS), “was arrested after a news article was published by the government-owned daily Akhbar Elyoum.” (Article in Arabic here.)

According to CPJ, Khallaf's EMS “trains and supports journalists who work online in Egypt. The syndicate operates independently from the state-recognized Egyptian Journalists Syndicate...
The local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture and the local Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said Khallaf was also accused of 'taking pictures and displaying artistic works without a license,' among other allegations. A 1998 executive order states that individuals conducting audio and audiovisual work must have a license from the Ministry of Culture. According to AFTE, the accusation is in connection with Khallaf photographing the funeral of Hisham Barakat, Egypt's prosecutor general who was assassinated late last month."

There are many echoes of this in Ban's UN: as simply one example Ban's Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach telling Inner City Press it takes photographs of things that "are not newsworthy." There are more, and more examples of Akbar Elyom.

Only when it questioned Ban's and its PR official Cristina Gallach's roles in the John Ashe, Ng Lap Seng and Francis Lorenzo UN bribery scandal did Gallach order Inner City Press ousted then evicted, and now try to give its office to an Egyptian media which rarely or never asked questions. Ban Ki-moon claimed “That is not my decision,” but that is not true.

  The New York Times on May 14 covered the story. But they did not in their long process report, because it happened at the end, that Ban Ki-moon and Gallach are moving to give Inner City Press' long time office to Egyptian state media, Al Akhbar / Akhbar El-Yom / Akher Saa, to a correspondent Sanaa Youssef who most even on the UN press floor have never seen.

Her "in" seems to be that she was a previous president of the UN Correspondents Association, now become the UN's Censorship Alliance. As one respected usual UN interlocutor put it, "it would be a hugely negative symbolic step for Egyptian state media to replace Inner City Press in the UN."

 A longtime UN correspondent who spotted her moving in on Inner City Press' office noted she had not been seen before; the name was confirmed by UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, which refused to provide the waiting list or describe the rationale.

But this is Ban's and Gallach's UN (click here for a Spanish take on Gallach's tenure.) We are beginning to report this now because it has proven nearly impossible to reach Al Akhbar / Akhbar Al Yom - the telephone numbers listed online are disconnected, or private homes; the correspondent at UNCA address has been unresponsive. The absurdity of this has been directly raised to Ban Ki-moon, his Deputy and Chief of Staff with enough time to stop it. We'll see.

  For now from the NYT we note this quote: “It’s not exactly the same access,’’ Mr. Dujarric said, “but if he has an issue, there is a staff of media liaisons to help him resolve the problem and get where he needs to go.”

  This is false. As Inner City Press has raised to Ban Ki-moon, "even when begrudgingly accompanied by a staff member of your Spokesperson's office, UN Security refused to allow me through the turnstile onto the second floor of Conference Building. I have been told not to ask questions of diplomats, just after you came out of ECOSOC and even with a MALU minder / escort with me, a UN Security official stood directly in front of me, apparently so I couldn't even try to ask you a question. This is censorship."  We await response.

    UN Correspondents Association boss Giampaolo Pioli dissembled, but at least on the record. (He rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona then granted Kohona's request, as Sri Lanka's Ambassador, to screen his government's war crimes denial film in the UN. Then Pioli told Inner City Press to take its story about it off the Internet or be thrown out of the UN, which Gallach and Ban did: UN Censorship Alliance.)

In any event, who is a rarely present boss of an ostensible Correspondents Association (morphing into the UN's Censorship Alliance) to lobby for the ouster of an investigative journalist so that his office can be handed to a never present former UNCA president - a representative of state owned media who never asks questions? This too has been raised and we await response.

  What's next? Is it acceptable for the UN to throw out a critical journalist writing four to eight stories a day, while leaving in people who write little, and ask nothing? Watch this site.

Audio hereBan, when asked, said “that is not my decision.” But he heard about the ouster and eviction in advance and ok-ed it.

On April 16, the acting chief of Gallach's “Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit Tal Mekel oversaw the eviction of Inner City Press' office, leaving five boxes of its files out on First Avenue. Video here.

Some in Ban's team indicated to Inner City Press its office would be left empty until its four month “purgatory” or punishment-for-reporting period was over.

That was a lie: on May 13, after Inner City Press asked more questions about Ban's engagements with John Ashe and Francis Lorenzo - president of South South News which paid UNCA and still has a UN office - Inner City Press was informed that its long time office is being given out -- apparently, to a former President of UNCA.

   When Inner City Press asked to see the supposed waiting list, this was refused by Mekel. It is apparently entirely up to Gallach - or UNCA - who is given UN office space, without which one cannot access the UN Conference Building's second floor, see below.

On May 13 as the UN Security Council began a meeting about Lebanon, the glass doors to enter the Council were locked. Apparenlty the UN can't afford one guard for a Security Council meeting, but won't provide information requested by the Press about Ban Ki-moon's endless and largely fruitless travel.

   Inner City Press, which covers the UN corruption scandal and was ousted then evicted by an official implicated in the scandal, Cristina Gallach -- see OIOS audit Paragraphs 37 to 40 and 20(b) -- with Ban Ki-moon's full knowledge, was unable to get to the Security Council stakeout. Its pass, cut by Gallach, won't open the turnstile at the other end of the stakeout. This week a guard there even refused to allow Inner City Press through to a stakeout with a staffer of the Spokesperson's office.

   Gallach, at least according to some paid to tweet for the UN, is in Washington. So Inner City Press undertook to document the restrictions and censorship. Another UN system spokesperson tried to undermine it, as did UN Security. They claimed everything is fine, even as Security Council Ambassadors asked them how can it be that the door is locked (and Press excluded). Some Security write-up began, sure to omit all of this. Watch this site - and see below.

While many try to insulate today's UN from the open corruption of the recent past of President of the General Assembly John Ashe, and of Francis Lorenzo who has pleaded guilty, there is continuity to this UN scandal. This includes a revival of the Ng Lap Seng's old "South South News" team, with El Salvador ex-Ambassador Carlos Garcia and others, even as those investigating this UN corruption are evicted and restricted, and those covering it up are rewarded.

   Inner City Press has repeatedly asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Ban's appearance at an event sponsored by the Francis Lorenzo registered group Global Governance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Q&A videos here and here.

Dujarric tried to answer about another group, then said Lorenzo's connection to the group isn't clear. Q&A video here.

   Well, now Inner City Press can report that the "Global Governance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals" event Ban attended was with indicted John Ashe, his wife Anilla Cherian's book launch. Video here.

 It featured speeches by Ban and by Francis Lorenzo, who in his speech named both GG-UNSDG and Global National Competitiveness Cooperation Organization for the UN, which sponsored the DPI-NGO conference last year at which Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach spoke. Q&A video here.

   How did this not show up in the UN's audit of l'affaire John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng? How did this book launch event get inserted into UNTV archives, run by Gallach's DPI? On the video, Ban and then Mrs. Ban are thanked by Ashe and then Anilla Cherian. The indictment details how over $1,000,000 was withdrawn from the PGA Accounts and transferred to the personal accounts of Ashe and of Anilla Cherian; no-show jobs are also described.

   Then there is the speech of Francis Lorenzo, how Anilla Cherian showed Ban the book even before Ashe. The UN has been trying to downplay or conceal Ban Ki-moon's contacts with Lorenzo, most recently saying it's unclear how Lorenzo is connected to a group that he, Lorenzo, register, and another one he founded. Those obfuscations cannot stand; separately, the retaliation is more and more clear. We'll have more on this.


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