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On Liberia, UN Guterres Has Statement, No Answer on Where He Is, Contempt For Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 30 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, location undisclosed, has issued a statement on Liberia, a week after  President George Weah, standing next to Guterres' Deputy Amina J. Mohammed, singled out a journalist as "against me" after the journalist asked Mohammed a question about human rights. From Mohammed, nothing. On March 30 from the UN, this: "The Secretary-General welcomes the successful conclusion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on 30 March 2018.  The Secretary-General congratulates the people and Government of Liberia for their determination to turn the page on crisis and conflict. He commends the Government’s continued efforts to ensure sustained peace and sustainable development in Liberia." This was sent out at 7:30 am, by the same UN Spokesperson's office which has left unanswered for 10 hours and counting questions including this one from Inner City Press: "where *is* the Secretary General? And where will he be, each day prior to his appearance Monday in Geneva? Again, has the Secretary General or anyone in his team spoken with Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS following the reports of his threats to staff who have come forward with harassment complaints?" Officials at even the local level have to disclose where they are. But the UN is different - it thrives on lack of accountability, while falsely claiming zero tolerance. We'll have more on this. Amina Mohammed's Twitter feed, as she headed from Monrovia to Abuja where she she was first silent on, then tried to help cover up the government's illegal refoulement of 47 to Cameroon, said that "I met with President @GeorgeWeahOff and conveyed the @UN’s commitment to sustaining peace, meaningful reconciliation & sustainable development." What about freedom of the press? In the UN Mohammed has said nothing while the Press which has asked since November for an explanation of her role in the post- (or pre-) dating of CITES certificates for endangered rosewood already exported to China has remained restricted to minders, unlike other correspondents, with no content neutral rules for equal media access. She has not responded to multiple petitions on the issue, and other questions, to her office, choosing instead softball "questions" from friendly media.  Now this. On March 26, Inner City Press asked her and Antonio Guterres' spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the Deputy, when she was in… I have a question of what she accomplished in Abuja, but I wanted to ask, when she was in Liberia, there's a… a, at least there, widely reported incident in which President [George] Weah specifically singled out a journalist and said, you've undermined the peace process.  And the journalist raised a lot of issues about it, and their… their press freedom organizations have written about it.  Since Amina J. Mohammed was on the podium when this took place, does she have any response, or can you, in the same way you did on procurement, seek some response to her to the targeting of a journalist directly in front of her?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the bottom line is that we want to make sure that all media are accorded their basic rights and their freedom to do their work without any harassment.

Inner City Press: But what was her actual response to something that happened actually right in front of her rather than a generalized statement?

Deputy Spokesman:  This is where I stand, and we always make clear to all our interlocutors the need to respect press freedoms.

Inner City Press: Did she do anything about this incident?  I'm asking… that's what I'm asking about.

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, this is where we stand on that." So she did nothing. What a way to "stand." Back in January in Egypt, Ahmed Shafik who was deported from the UAE to Cairo when it was reported he would run for the Egyptian presidency has announced that he will not; his lawyers say the Sisi government coerced him with threats to drop out. When Inner City Press asked the UN about Shafik in December, when Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed was in Egypt "enjoying the light show," the UN had no comment. Now Mohammed is in Abuja in "her" Nigeria right when nine leaders pursued by Cameroon's dictator Paul Biya have been grabbed up, by Nigerian security. She and the UN have had nothing to say. To this has the UN descended: acquiescence and even complicity in tyrants shutting down their opposition. We'll have more on this. On December 1 UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric who has refused to answer Inner City Press' rosewood questions announced that Amina Mohammed "will depart New York for Cairo to hold consultations with senior Egyptian Government officials." So far, with no read-outs at all from the UN, there is only Egyptian government propaganda, that "Upon her arrival at Cairo International Airport, she was received by Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister for African Affairs Mohamed Idrees and the UN Resident Coordinator to Egypt Richard Dictus. The chairman of Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited Mohamed to attend the sound and light show at the Giza Pyramids which she enjoyed greatly and noted in the VIP Guest Book which the General Manager of Sound and Light invited her to sign." That's it? Meanwhile the same Egyptian state media that Mohammed's and Alison Smale's UN DPI retains in Inner City Press' long-time UN workspace, Akhbar al Yom, reports darkly that Ahmed Shafik "is facing charges of violating building regulations and will be investigated on the matter within the coming hours, state-run Akhbar Al-Youm indicated on Sunday." Mohammed favors this state media, and is silent on the crackdown but "enjoyed greatly" the sound and light show. Next stop, rosewood unresolved: Wall Street! First, there was just this smiling photo and caption: "Deputy Secretary-General @AminaJMohammed  arrived today in Cairo for a two-day visit for a series of consultations with Egyptian senior officials on development related issues." About what - press freedom, with 400 websites blocked and journalists in jail, while her UN favors Sisi's state media Akhbar al Yom which rares comes in and never asks questions? What about this open letter to the UN about the lack of press freedom in Egypt, signed by groups including the Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms, Alkarama Foundation, ARTICLE 19, Committee for Justice, Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms, El Nadim Center against Torture and Violence, EuroMed Rights, Front Line Defenders, Index on Censorship, PEN International and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)? What about the upcoming elections? Inner City Press asked about Ahmed
Shafik, the insider in exile candidate who'd said the UAE wouldn't let him go? (Now he's being extradited or deported BACK to Egypt, as another candidate Ahmed Konsowa / Qonsowah has been summoned for prosecution. And from the UN's Amina J. Mohammed?) From the UN's December 1 transcript: Inner City Press: You had mentioned Egypt.  I wanted to know is… is the UN aware of this claim by Ahmed Shafiq, a potential presidential candidate, saying he's in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and was barred from going back?And so there's one question.  The other one is, is this going to become a way of outreach?  What triggers the Deputy Secretary-General's trip to Egypt at this time? Spokesman:  We've seen the press reports.  It's unrelated to that specific case.  We're not going to… yeah, so, I mean, the Deputy Secretary-General's trip was scheduled long ahead.  There are a lot of issues to be discussed, notably on development issues and, you know, we'll brief you after her trip. Inner City Press: Many of the press freedom groups around the world have already talked about different people that are in jail there.  Do you think that she will be raising… Spokesman:  I think… I don't want to give out pre-readouts of her meetings. Inner City Press: And I want just also on travel.  I've seen some… some… put together some online clues and I wanted to ask you if you can confirm the Secretary-General is going to be traveling to Japan in the near future to a health conference there? Spokesman:  "As you know, once we're able to confirm travel, we will.  Often other parties announce trips, but until we announce it, it's not official."  Moments later, Inner City Press asked the UN AIDS representative who was speaking about sexual orientation and other discrimination if Amina Mohammed was going to raise that in Egypt. He said Mohammed has not spoken with his office about these issues prior to her trip. We'll have more on this: so far there is nothing on Amina J. Mohammed in Egypt. Mohammed's failure to file financial public disclosure stands in contrast, for example, to the UN's envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto, who signed his Public Disclosure form on October 23, 2017 (Residential property, joint ownership, Japan; Mortgage, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Japan) and another of the few Japanese UN high officials,  Izumi Nakamitsu who signed her Public Disclosure form on January 18, 2017 (Two residential properties, joint ownership, Sweden; Mortgage, Handelsbanken, jointly held, Sweden). In other murky news, after Secretary General Antonio Guterres went to Lisbon for four days (while spokesman Dujarric refused Press requests to disclosure the cost of that trip, like Amina Mohammed's to Cape Town), he will soon travel to Japan, for a merely regional health conference. We'll have more on this. As to Mohammed, the export to China of illegally harvested rosewood, reported on by Le Monde on November 3 with reference to UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed who signed the certificates, also involves "smuggling from Cameroon." See EIA video, here. This may put a new light on the UN's inaction on the Cameroonian government's killings and Internet cut off in the Anglophone zones. Cameroon's Ambassador to the UN, while saying he'd call upstairs to ensure Inner City Press couldn't go there any more (the UN's Department of Public Information did threaten Inner City Press' accreditation for Periscope broadcasting in connection with photo ops on the 38th floor), also bragged that the DSG's opposition to separatism in Biafra led to the same position on Cameroon. And just as UN envoy Chambas went and preached One Nigeria, failing UN envoy Francois Fall called Southern Cameroons secessionists "extremists," on DPI's UN Radio no less. They say in journalism, Follow the Money. But in this case it may be, Follow the Rosewood, or Kosso.  In terms of money: Joe Biden appeared at the UN on November 3, and tables were sold for up to $50,000. One might think, after the proved corruption of the UN in the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe trial for events in this same Delegates Dining Room, charging this kind of money for sitting with  a “senior UN official” would be a thing of the past. Or after Antonio Guterres was questioned after taking a golden statue from Paul Biya, the 35-year rules of Cameroon. But no. On November 6, Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed appeared, took an award and gave a speech at an event in Washington for which $25,000 sponsorships were offered, here, by a publication which covers and is promoted by the UN (while following up on November 9 on Le Monde's November 3 story, no mention of Cameroon.) On November 9, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press; as you know or you or Farhan [Haq] had said, she just recently received the Diplomat of the Year Award from Foreign Policy down in DC. Was she aware of this story being in preparation when she accepted the award? Often, to receive the award, you have to be present.  How long were the discussions? Spokesman:  I think some of those questions should be addressed to Foreign Policy.  She was fully aware that the story was going to come out when she received the award." No Cameroon. Ban Ki-moon allowed the corruption of Ng Lap Seng, and Antonio Guterres has done thing to reverse it. In fact, Guterres left through the same door Biden came in, one hour before, using public funds to fly to his home in Lisbon, using a 15 minutes speech there on Monday to justify a three day UN paid junket. And his spokesman refused to answer questions, even about his one on one lunches on the 38th floor, where Inner City Press' use of Periscope during photo ops has allowed Guterres' DPI under Alison Smale to threaten its accreditation. All of this takes place while Guterres covers up mass killing in Cameroon, and is prepared to be sold himself, on Wall Street no less. We'll have more on this. On November 2, Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that "on Monday, the Secretary-General will be in Lisbon to participate in the Web Summit 2017, which brings together the leaders of key Internet companies with officials from different Governments.  You are aware of the attention the Secretary-General has been devoting to the uses of the Internet." Really? Guterres was silent for example when Cameroon cut off the Internet for 94 days this year; his Department of Public Information has threatened Inner City Press' accreditation for unspecified violation by live-streaming a Guterres photo op using Twitter's Periscope platform. But why did Guterres take this speaking gig, which it turns out is for only 15 minutes at 7:25 pm on the evening of Monday, November 6? Inner City Press asked Dujarric, who refused to state with whom Guterres had a formal lunch meeting in the UN dining room with UN funds on November 3, where Guterres will be on Saturday and Sunday. Dujarric replied: "sg will be in lisbon over the weekend." It sure seems like that's why he took the Lisbon speaking gig. And in fact, even before 5 pm on Friday, November 3, Guterres left the UN with bodyguards, in a three-car convoy. Who is paying for all this? On October 27, after Guterres' spokespeople stonewalled Inner City Press for three days on his plans for a grip and grin meeting in a Cameroon airport with Paul Biya, who has killed hundreds this year as well as cutting the Internet Guterres loves so much, they also refused to say how Guterres personal, or shall we say Lisbon-focused, travel is paid for, and how much it costs. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: If he goes to Lisbon, Portugal, does he take UN security with him?  In which case, where do they stay, and what are the costs?  How are they borne? Deputy Spokesman:  However he does his stopovers, he does it at the least cost to the UN.  And a lot of times, what that means is traveling with a smaller delegation, and it also means traveling on commercial flights.  He does take specific steps, and he's been very conscientious over these months of making sure that he travels with as slim a delegation as he has. Inner City Press: My question is just who's paying for his security if he goes to Lisbon?  And also I'm aware that he sent some people in advance to CAR.  They didn't travel with him, but they were actually part of the party.  So is there an attempt to bifurcate traveling trips so that some people are not considered to be traveling with him.  For example, the UN photographer, I'm aware, went days in advance.  Why was that?
Deputy Spokesman:  Well, sometimes advance teams go out when it's needed to do that.  For us, in terms of the Department of Public Information, there are many times when it's useful for us to send our media crews in advance to get different coverage for the sort of pieces and features that they do.  Inner City Press: Can we just get the cost?  It's a straight transparency question. Deputy Spokesman:  The costs of travel are calculated over the year and shared with the Member States, and that's how we do it.  All right.  Have a good weekend, everyone." Antonio sure will - on the public dime. Back on July 29, the day after guilty verdicts on six counts of UN bribery in the case of Ng Lap Seng, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres flew to Split for a seven day vacation on the Dalmatian islands, according to sources there. Guterres' spokespeople did not disclose the travel or any week-long absence to the press covering the UN, at least not to the Press evicted and still restricted for covering Ng's bribery. This lack of transparency stands in contrast to the executive branch in Washington and even New York routinely disclosing travel including vacation travel. But the UN has no press protections either - Guterres has been asked. Meanwhile his spokespeople says the UN should get paid for the UNreformed corruption shown in the Ng trial and verdict. We'll have more on this. When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on July 27 had a brief meeting with Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar state media and other UN based photographers went up. Alamy photos here. There were complaints how short the handshake was; Inner City Press noted that on the UN side of the table were only four people, all men, including Jeffrey Feltman. Periscope video here. Guterres was scheduled to be at another meeting in 25 minutes time. So will the UN help solve the stand-off in the Gulf? It seems unlikely. The UN never answered Inner City Press' questions of if Feltman had visited Saudi Arabia and if not, why not. Back on July 19 Guterres.had a meeting and photo op with Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso María Dastis Quecedo. Inner City Press went to cover it, Alamy photos here, Periscope video here including of whether Dastis should write "una poema" in the UN visitors' book. Inner City Press barely arriving on time due to the crowd of tourists at the UN's visitors entrance. It has been this way since Spain's now-gone Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach had Inner City Press evicted from and still restricted at the UN after Inner City Press asked her about attending indicted Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng's South South Awards, and allowing Ng fundees improper events in the UN. Although Guterres did not continue Gallach's contract - she lobbied to stay, but failed - her negative impacts are still in evidence. The Spanish Mission to the UN, now off the Security Council, likewise did nothing to reign Gallach in. But surely they are lobbying Guterres to get another Under Secretary General position, even as their Fernando Arias Gonzalez runs against six others to head the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We'll have more on this. The day before on July 18 Guterres had a meeting and photo op with the Dominican Republic's Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado (Alamy photos here, Periscope video here); it came one day after in the UN bribery case against Ng Lap Seng a video of then
then-President Leonel Fernandez Reyna visiting South South News near the UN was discussed. That video is here. South South News was a bribery conduit, its funds used for gambling by Dominican Deputy Permanent Representative Francis Lorenzo in Las Vegas and Atlantic City while the UN's Department of Public Information let SSN's content into UNTV archives and let Ng fundees have impermissible events in the UN. On July 18, Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq refused to answer Inner City Press' yes or no questions about South South News and the UN. After the July 18 photo op, Inner City Press had nowhere to edit - for seeking to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room in pursuing the UN / SSN corruption story, Inner City Press was evicted and still restricted. The 38th floor apparently loves it. On July 10 Guterres has a photo op with Colombia's Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar. It was supposed to be in his office in UN Headquarters at 4:30 pm. But on little notice he moved it to his - make that, the UN and the public's - mansion on Sutton Place and 57th Street, at 4 pm. Inner City Press jumped on the city bus up First Avenue, broadcasting a Periscope video about the change, when suddenly it was urged to stop broadcasting by a board member of the UN Correspondents Association, which Guterres' deputy spoke before last week and whose former president Giampaolo Pioli's Hampton's gratiuty-fest the UN acting head of Public Information Maher Nasser attended, the UN Censorship Alliance. This is today's UN. Still, up on Sutton Place UN Security brought up a sniffing dog in a UN 4x4, and two quick photos were allowed before Guterres escorted Holguin onto "his" elevator.  Back at the UN, the door to the UN Security Council stakeout was locked, and the turnstile where targeting Inner City Press' ID pass no longer works was guarded by new UN Security who didn't even recognize the UN minder. Still, we got this Periscope, despite UN censorship which continues. 


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