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In UN Ivory Coast Now Heads Security Council No Answers Yet on Burundi or Cameroon Human Rights Inner City Press Will Ask

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UNITED NATIONS, December 3 – When the Security Council President for October, Cote d'Ivoire Ambassador Kacou Houadja Léon Adomu, held a Press-less press conference on December 3, he listed as Africa issues to be address during the month South Sudan, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and the Sahel. No one present asked about Burundi much less Cameroon, and Inner City Press was unable, being banned without hearing or appeal. Kacou Houadja Léon Adomu would not answer on North Korea human rights if his country will sign the draft letter for a Council meeting, nor how it would stand in any procedural vote. Many of the questions could have been addressed by just looking at the Program of Work. Inner City Press has more questions - watch this site. Troublingly, the UN allows in Morocco state media, which got a question from its perspective. Inner City Press still banned from the UN without any due process or appeal gets questions answered by the International Monetary Fund which it covers, on Yemen and Sri Lanka. At the IMF briefing, spokesman Gerry Rice was asked about US sanctions on Venezuela gold sales. In New York, Ambassador Ma reiterated that China is against all unilateral sanctions. So what will the Council be doing when the new US sanctions on Iran kick in? Watch this site - we continue the UN as actively as anyone. Last month Bolivia's Ambassador Llorenti talked up his upcoming field trip to DR Congo, like the Security Council visit he led to Haiti, which Inner City Press went on and reported from. But now that Guterres for his own reasons has had Inner City Press roughed up and banned since July 3, Llorenti's Mission has yet to respond to this, regarding (now) October 11: "find myself banned from even entering the UN, since 3 July 2018 when I was physically ousted while staking out the Fifth Committee meeting from the Vienna Cafe area, at the invitation of member states on the Committee. I would like to request that you / your Mission ensure that I can enter the UN to cover and hopefully ask a question at your Program of Work press conference tomorrow, and after that to cover / stakeout such meetings at the October 11 consultations on Western Sahara / MINURSO, which is almost impossible to cover without being in the building. As you may know, there are numerous Morocco state media given office space and resident correspondent status by DPI under USG Alison Smale, who has refused to answer a single one of my 10 e-mails. They will cover the Western Sahara meeting, from their perspective. I believe I have a similar right to continue this issue.
Responsible are Chef de Cabinet Viotti (who was called by the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press) and/or DSG Amina Mohammed. Or, pending that, please have the Mission bring me in to these meetings. The only written communication I have received from the UN is this letter from USG Smale, here." We'll have more on this, (well) before October 11.  Back on September 4 when US Ambassador Nikki Haley held a press conference about her Security Council residency, her second, of the 14 questions called on by the US Mission to the UN not one was about anything in Africa or even about UN reform. This happened as 60% of the UN's work is in Africa, the UN is caught up in sexual abuse and harassment scandals and while Inner City Press, which covers UN abuse and has uncovered Secretary General Antonio Guterres' inaction in Cameroon and the African business links of his son Pedro Guimarães e Melo De Oliveira Guterres has been banned from the UN for 63 days by Guterres, prospectively to miss access to the General Assembly High Level week for the first time in 11 years.
   When Inner City Press was roughed up while it covered the UN Budget Committee and a plan by Guterres to move jobs including from New York to Mexico City, it was covered by Fox News which one assumes the US Mission reads. Inner City Press did not reach out for any assistance from the Mission, holding to the principle that the UN should treat journalists fairly without a state sponsor.
   Nothing improved. In fact, Guterres' British head of Global Communications Alison Smale issued a letter banning Inner City Press, dredging up old discredited complaints from Morocco and her bitter deputy. Still, nothing from Haley or the US Mission.
   Finally on August 24, after Inner City Press learned from a non-US source of President Trump's plan for a meeting about drugs on September 24, Inner City Press formally raised the matter to Haley's spokesman, a holdover from the Samantha Power days, John Degory. He indicated he heard what was said.

  But access was not arranged to Haley's September 4 press conference, at which after Haley to her credit at least raised South Sudan in her opening remarks Degory tried to give a question to among others a retired travel agent and a barely intelligible resident correspondent from Pakistan who beyond assisting in Inner City Press' eviction spent the past weekend tweeting that tennis star Serena Williams and her outfits are “pathetic.” That's today's UN.

   Now there is a deadline to cover the UN General Assembly and Inner City Press has applied and has writing an open letter to Haley, below, and cc-ed her and Degory on its polite letter to Smale. Watch this site. Sixty days after Inner City Press was physically ousted frm the UN and then subject to a ongoing ban from entry to cover the Security Council or UN noon briefing, Inner City Press sent a now open letter to US Ambassador Nikki Haley, here:
Dear Ambassador Haley:

   On this the first day of your UN Security Council Presidency, this concerns the censorship of Press the UN has engaged in since July 3.

   I was physically ousted that day by UN Security while I staked-out a meeting of the Fifth (Budget) Committee as I have for a decade. Right after I spoke to Cameroon Ambassador Tommo Monthe, chair of the Fifth Committee, I was grabbed by Lt Ronald E. Dobbins and another officer, shirt torn, laptop damaged, arm twisted. This was covered in Fox News, here, as well as The (UK) Independent.

  On July 5 when I came to cover the Security Council meetings on Syria and Yemen, I was banned from entering UN. After a no due process review by the Department of Public Information's Alison Smale, my accreditation was “withdrawn” on August 17, seemingly for life. The letter is online here, downloadable with some of my rebuttal (not heard by Smale or DPI) here.

  I have raised this verbally to some in your US Mission to the UN, including eight days ago to your spokesman John Degory, followed up in writing with a request to be admitted to your September 4 Program of World press conference. In your first such press conference on 3 April 2017, I asked you about peacekeepers' sexual abuse and the continuing need for the Freedom of Information Act at the UN. Video here.

   As things stand, without any due process, I am banned from your press conference -- at which, for the record, I would like to ask you about the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon which I asked you about on 18 October 2017. Video here. I am also banned from covering the General Assembly High Level week, the deadline for accreditation for which is September 5.

   I firmly believe I have a right to cover this member states' event, despite what I see as bias and lawlessness by DPI and the wider Secretariat. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric in an August 27 noon briefing I was banned from attending cut off a question about my ouster, video here insisting that to say this is about freedom of the press would be wrong. (Then why is it in the Press Freedom Tracker, here, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among others for example in the UK, Japan, Italy and Cameroon? Why this 5000+ signature petition?) They have gotten so petty as to get UNICEF to block me from a book event they had invited me to on September 5. They similarly got my blocked from a press conference held outside of the UN at the Pierre Hotel by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization, whose work on North Korea's cyanide patents I have also asked you about.

  So I am writing to you, asking for your intervention at least on the limited issues of not being blocked from attending your September 4 press conference and relatedly DPI relenting and not blocking me from covering the GA High Level Week, and allowing me to apply and be accredited on Sept 5 like thousands of other correspondents, many state media of government with little respect for press freedom.
 
Bigger picture, why has the UN banned me for 60 days and counting? I think it is because, more than before, they cannot or feel they do not have to put up with critical questions and coverage.

  Not to be put too fine a point on it, but this is NOT a new day at the UN - or what is new about it is the willingness to rough up and journalist and ban its media for life, with no due process or appeal. This is not consistent with the First Amendment of the US Constitution (which it is now clear entirely stops east of First Avenue) - nor with Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  This is an outrage at the UN that must be addressed.

Matthew Russell Lee, InnerCityPress.com

***

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