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UN Charge Against Syria Is Led by Saudi From Sword to Saw to Snow as Interpreters Leave No Vote

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT NY Post

UNITED NATIONS, November 15 – The absurdity of today's UN was on display in its Third Committee on November 15, the 134th day in a row Inner City Press has been banned for its coverage by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. There was a draft resolution against Syria for human rights violations - introduced and promoted by Saudi Arabia, which did not once in its speeches acknowledge either the murder of Jamal Khashoggi nor its airstrikes on Yemen.

Khashoggi was brought up - a reference to Saudi Arabia "moving from sword to saw" - by Iran. Syria argued that the resolution would cost member states $20 million in 2020, which would trigger the need to prepare a statement on Program Budget Implications (a requirement that Guterres himself evaded, then had Inner City Press roughed up as it covered the UN Budget Committee on July 3 and has banned it since).

   Finally Iran asked for separate vote on whether the Committee and its members were competent to move forward on portions of the resolution. Few seemed to understand this competence vote. By the time it passed 88 yes, 13 no and 48 abstentions, it was after six o'clock. The chairman, from Afghanistan, said the meeting had to end before the vote on the overall resolution, because the interpreters had to leave. Saudi Arabia's long time Permanent Representative demanded the floor to demand that the interpreters stay, or be asked to stay. (The Saudis can be persuasive.)

  The Afghan chair almost gave in, but since it was a formal meeting, it could not proceed without interpreters, who left into the snow. It was said the vote might not then happen until Monday. It was over and if it were not banned by corrupt Antonio Guterres Inner City Press would have run to the conference room to ask the participant why. But since it is still banned, for 134 days like Trump has banned Acosta for seven, this report, and those to come. Guterres doesn't get to choose who can cover the UN, nor to ban a Press which questions his misuse of public funds to fly to Lisbon from having access to the General Assembly. That would be like Trump banning Acosta from Congress. 

  Amid the outrage at the Trump White House suspending the credential and access of CNN's Jim Acosta - which we share, including if video was doctored, see UN Nov 8 video here - and the November 14 well-pleaded First Amendment lawsuit it is worth noting that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on 3 July 2018 has critical Inner City Press roughed up by UN Lieutenant Ronald E. Dobbins as it covered the UN Budget Committee: UK Independent with video here.  Guterres and Dobbins had impunity: the UN has refused to lift (misused) legal immunity even for Dobbins.  Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said in public and private that entry into the UN is a privilege - even though the compound houses the General Assembly, the so called parliament of humanity. Now business journalists Charles Gasparino opines, "point here for reporters to digest: you DON'T need official access to break news. i was consistently denied access to Goldman, Merrill Citi - all the big Wall Street firms. And for the most part I still am but never stopped me covering them." Good point, and Inner City Press is committed to establishing that Antonio Guterres et al. don't get to choose who can cover the UN. But there is a difference between a private corporation and a government or "meta-government" like the United Nations which claims to be for We the Peoples, and #UN4ALL, etc. Some corporations lined up for public money like Amazon and thereby also lose or should lose such privacy rights. Inner City Press which also covers banks has faced legal threats from JP Morgan Chase (more on JPMC as well as Amazon to follow) - but ironically the threat was withdrawn. Even a corporation is subject to constraint and accountability. The UN, particularly of Guterres, is not accountable at all: it is lawless, and it is spreading. Trump's defense argues that he "and his staff have absolute discretion over which journalists they grant interviews to, as well as over which journalists they acknowledge at
press events. That broad discretion necessarily includes discretion over which journalists receive on-demand access to the White House grounds and special access during White House travel for the purpose of asking questions of the President or his staff. No journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House and the President need not survive First Amendment scrutiny whenever he exercises his discretion to deny an individual journalist one of the many hundreds of passes granting on-demand access to the White House complex." So - the argument now made by Trump was made first by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who pontificated elsewhere about freedom of the press. A difference? Guterres is not only banning Inner City Press 133 days from "his" Secretariat, but also the General Assembly and its committees. Could Trump ban Acosta from Congress? From events held in the Capitol? We'll have more on this.

 Guterres had Inner City Press' UN media accreditation, in place for ten years, suspended for weeks and weeks, with Inner City Press having to report on the UN from the sidewalk. CJR here.

  On August 17 Guterres' Global Communicator Alison Smale issued an order withdrawing Inner City Press' accreditation, without any hearing and no appeal. She never answered UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye's question about an appeals process. There is none, and the UN unlike the US government is immune from lawsuit. So it reaches out, via spokes- / hatchetman Stephane Dujarric, to those who question UN censorship, at least if they are from Europe. What does he tell them?

  To give the UN its best chance, Inner City Press on the morning of November 8 emailed questions to Guterres, his Deputy Amina Mohammed, Alison Smale, Dujarric and his Deputy Farhan Haq including: "November 8-2: I am informed that the SG's spokesman has selectively contacted those (from Europe) raising questions about the UN 3 July 2018 Press ouster and ban since, including stating that unnamed UN staff members or officials demand a lifetime ban in order to feel “safe.” Given the lack of due process, please name which officials or safe claim to feel unsafe in order to justify censorship, and the basis for your claims. Also, again, answer UNSR David Kaye's and others' question: what is the appeals process for a unilateral no due process physical ouster and banning by the UN of a journalist?" But seven hour later, no answer to any of the questions.

   So, for now due to the UN's constant threat of retaliation even against those it has unilaterally chosen to reach out to with dirt that cannot stand the light of day, this is a composite:

Dujarric claims that Inner City Press made "diplomats" feel unsafe. But he has yet to provide the name of a single diplomat, other than the false Morocco Mission complaint in USG Alison Smale's 17 August 2018 ban letter.

Dujarric claims that his staff didn't like having the movement reported on. This seems to refer to Inner City Press, once it had no office to use, working on a bench in the Secretariat lobby and noting when spokespeople who refused to even acknowledge formal questions went out to lunch. This is not a basis to ban a journalist for life.

Dujarric goes low and says that unnamed female reporters didn't want to see Inner City Press doing stand-up Periscope broadcasts. But the purpose of these -- filming on the fourth floor was permitted without an escort, Inner City Press was told by Media Accreditation -- was to show EMPTY offices, for example Morocco state media, while Inner City Press had nowhere to work. In fact, Inner City Press went out of its way not to speak with or engage in any way with Dujarric's coterie of pro UN correspondents - that why it left the building after work through the garage, which was later used against it.

  There is more, and we will have more. But it is clear these are pretexts. And even if Antonio "The Censor" Guterres, who believes it is impermissible for a journalist to do a critical stand up on the public sidewalk across two lanes of traffic from the $15 million publicly funded mansion he (sometimes) lives in believes these pretexts, an interim solution was and is clear.

 Simply allow Inner City Press in to go to the noon briefing and asked question - unless that is what they are afraid of - and to cover UNSC stakeouts and Budget Committee meetings. It is pathetic that a UN and Secretary General that be focused on "conflict prevention" can't find a solution other than violent ouster and banning for a critical journalist. We'll have more on this.

  Note that the UN has gone further, putting Inner City Press on a non -public list of people banned from all UN premises for life. Guterres even had his Security get Park East Synagogue head of security Shay Amir try to oust Inner City Press from his speech on tolerance on October 31.

  So while the outrage at the White House action on Acosta grows, as it should (the Free UN Coalition for Access opposes it, like the arrest of journalists in Cameroon), why is the UN given a free pass to rough up and ban a journalist? Is there a right or principle of free press or isn't there? It has been raised - watch this site.


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