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Sept 24, 2013

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UN Bans Press Reporting on Whistleblowers as Guterres Uses AJE Softballs BBC Phoning it in

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC-Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN NY Mag

UN GATE, June 21 – The UN's retaliation is not limited to banning Inner City Press that Secretary General Antonio Guterres doesn't like - he also fired and penalizes UN staff who dare speak out about the Organization's abuses.  

 On June 16, a week before a documentary on the topic that includes leaked audio first published by Inner City Press, Inner City Press asked UN Spokespeople Stephane Dujarric, Farhan Haq and Melissa Fleming:

"What are the comments and actions if any of SG Guterres on the BBC piece about UN whistleblowers being retaliated against, set for worldwide view on June 21 but presumably already in the SG's awareness? See this."

 No answer from the UN. Instead, they arranged for a colloquy about a useless "hot line" with pro-UN Qatar state media, which asked about Guterres now acting on these "new" cases of sexual misconduct. But the hands down the pants happened long ago, and was exposed by Inner City Press - and the audio used without credit in the documentary shows Guterres covered it up.

 While Team Guterres has not answered Inner City Press, on June 20 BBC World tweeted, "The BBC was handed a secret recording of Ben Swanson, staff had come to him in tears describing how an assistant secretary general had put his hand down her trousers."

HANDED? Inner City Press exclusively published the audio long ago on SoundCloud here. It has asked the BBC about it, and why its correspondents so rare ask about UN wrongdoing including banning Press, in which some of them have colluded.

BBC's arch response: "Reference CAS-7209948-F6D6K3  Dear Matthew,  Many thanks for contacting us about ‘The Whistleblowers: Inside the UN’, and our reporting around this story.  We’ve discussed your complaint with the programme team. An audio clip featuring Ben Swanson, director of the investigations division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) at the UN, was given to us...we don’t see any need to credit this further.  We hope this helps to clarify matters and wish you all the best,  BBC Complaints Team   Please note: this email is sent from an unmonitored address so please don’t reply. If necessary please contact us through our webform (please include your case reference number)." Not even a "previously published by Inner City Press." And BBC did not even bother to send anyone to the June 21 noon briefing to ask.

  One BBC correspondent at the UN (still on BBC TV) protested when Inner City Press reported the anti-Tamil comments of one of the UK's UN Relief Chiefs, saying, You cost us access. Another, still on BBC Radio, took part in the UN Correspondents Association push to oust Inner City Press for reporting that UNCA's president Giampaolo Pioi took rent money from a Sri Lankan war criminal then gave his government's genocide denial film an UNCA screening. There's more:

   For weeks I was  forced to sit in a windowless room over the UN Library and listen to the charges, to the demand I take the story down and apologize. Present and participating with the censorship mob was the UN correspondent of the BBC - and of France 24 and Reuters.

 I refused. With the general membership they did not have enough votes to throw me out. Iwrote about that to – then quit and started  FUNCA, the Free UN Coalition for Access.   But it wasn’t over.

With Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his secret side deal with China, they had an ally as contemptuous of free press as they were.     When UNCA held its private annual meeting in the UN Briefing Room, I announced that he would stay in the room and film it, since it was the briefing room.

  The UN-ites yelled at me through the glass of the interpreters booth as he live streamed, and called in Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq to order me out. 

 I said, I’ll only leave if UN Security tells me to. If I start letting the spokesman tell me to leave the briefing room, you’ll do it every day. (Ultimately, they would).   When the UN Security guard came and robotically told me to leave, citing Dujarric, I left.

  But soon I got a letter telling him to clean out his shared office in the UN. I said I was still working, and a guard named McNulty frog marched me out.  Audio here.

    For three days I reported on the UN from a bench in the park across the street. Business Insider visited me and wrote about it. The UN, through Dujarric, belatedly and cynically begged me to come back in as they were being accused of censorship.

  Later, Team Guterres wouldn’t care. They were legally immune, flush with Chinese cash and full of hot air about climate change.    Once back in, my movement were restricted. I couldn’t access the second floor where not only the Security Council but also ECOSOC and General Assembly were.

   I had to get a Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit minder, who would stand next to me and ask, Who are you trying to interview? A leaker, of course. 

 UN Security took to building a blue ribboned stantion pen around me, to make it less likely potential critics of the UN would speak to me. I tried to record it, for example here and here and here.

  I protested Dujarric's continuing privatization of the UN Press Briefing Room, for example to Qatar's Al Jazeera, whose James Bays asked for me and Inner City Press to be removed.

  Finally one night when the UN Budget Committee was meeting, I passed by at 10 pm to do a final interview before leaving for the night. I questioned Tommo Monthe the Ambassador of Cameroon, then murdering Anglophones in the North- and South-west regions. Then UN Security, which had it emerged been surveilling him, grabbed me and threw me out. Video here.

The next day I was refused entry altogether. The NYPD precinct on 51st Street said there was nothing they could do, the UN has immunity. They took down a handwritten complaint but it never went anywhere; Freedom of Information Law requests are still pending.  

I covered the UN from the sidewalk that summer, then the 46th library (now closing) in winter. From above a Korean deli on 45th Street I wrote to my two New York State Senators, but neither of them did anything except put me on the email list for their fundraising requests.  

Finally I began daily covering the SDNY courthouse and got accredited there. Alongside reporting on other UN corruption cases, and for example Ghislaine Maxwell, Larry Ray and now Joshua Schulte, daily I film the UN noon briefing, at which my emailed questions are not answered.

  I email questions to the UN each morning, to SG Antonio Guterres, DSG Amina J. Mohammed and the months UN Security President President (in May, USUN's Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in June Albania's Ferit Hoxha).

  But now they never answer any of them. I got the Quinn Emanuel law firm, pro bono, to write to Guterres’ head of accreditation Melissa Fleming about a process to get me back in. Letter here. No answer at all.

The UN is immune and does nothing. We'll have more on this.


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