Now UN of Guterres and Smale Impose Lifetime Ban on Inner City Press Amid Cameroon & Corruption Qs
Aug 18, 2018 —
UNITED NATIONS GATE, August 1* – After having covered the UN since 2005 for Inner City Press, and pursued stories of UN under-performance from Sri Lanka to Darfur and Haiti to Yemen and Cameroon, at 4 pm on Friday August 17 I got a four page letter from Under Secretary General Alison Smale, formerly the New York Times' Berlin bureau chief. We've put the letter on Scribd here,Patreon download here.
The letter informed me, without a single opportunity to be heard and offer rebuttal, that “your accreditation is hereby withdrawn pursuant to the Guidelines.” As written, despite Inner City Press near immediate rebuttals, it seems to be a lifetime ban by these UNaccounable officials @AntonioGuterres / SGcentral and @Alison_Smale / Alison.Smale. Inner City Press had informed Smale, and Secretary General Antonio Guterres who is ultimately responsible for this, that Smale must recuse herself.
As part of its coverage of the UN in the past year I have heard from whistleblowers in Smale's Department of Public Information that she diverted funds intended for Swahiliprogramming to her avowed focused, getting better coverage for Guterres particularly on social media.
But Smale did not recuse herself, and Guterres who refused my polite question to him on July 20 why this censorship was taking place and why he had been so silent as Cameroon killed Anglophones in the North-West and South-West regions of the country, did not make her recuse. Nor did he recuse himself, despite my timely request that the President of the General Assembly, and not the obviously conflicted Guterres and Smale, take charge of any review deemed necessary.
What is most troubling about the UN's August 17 dis-accreditation letter is how vague it is, and inaccurate the few times it gets specific.
The UN claims that on 3 July 2018 I “attempted to gain unauthorized access to a locked area of the UN.” But as I reported at the the time, and my Periscope video subsequently used by Fox News and The UK Independent shows, I was in the UN's much traveled Vienna Cafe. (Guterres' Assistant Secretary General Christian Saunders, whose involvement in aUN procurement scandal I previously reported, was also there: he oversaw the assault and the next day told me he doesn't like my articles.)
On July 3 I was staking out -- that is, standing outside of - the UN Budget Committee meetings. In fact, I had been informed of the meetings by UN personnel and diplomats had invited me down in order to tell me, as a reported, what was going on.
Ironically it was with Cameroon's Ambassador Tommo Monthe that I had just spoken when UN Lieutenant Ronald E. Dobbins and another officer who had still been identified by the UN approached me from behind, grabbed and twisted my arm, grabbed and damaged my laptop computer and tore my shirt. I recoiled and said, loudly, “I am a journalist, covering a meeting!” To Smale, this is incivility, enough to be permanently banned from the UN for.
Next, at the top of page 3 of the letter, Smale runs through a litany of supposed violations without providing any details, nor acknowledging that other correspondents more friendly to Guterres and her are allowed to do these things routinely. Smale pillories my “presence on UN premises outside authorized time periods as stipulated in the Guidelines.”
But those Guidelines, even as selectively quoted by Smale at the top of page 2 of her letter, make clear that I was permitted past 7 pm to cover an advised meeting - such as the July 3 UN Budget Committee meeting considering a $6.7 billion expenditure of public funds or the June 22 event in the UN General Assembly lobby featuring a speech in which Guterres bragged about fasting in Mali.
On June 22, not mentioned in Smale's August 17 letter but alleged as a “repeat violation” by Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq in a July 5 article, the same Lieutenant Dobbins and four Emergency Response Unit officers he summoned and then told not to give their names, pushed me out of the UN even as other non resident correspondents were allowed to remain in. There is video, here.
Days before that first roughing up of Inner City Press by UN Security but clearly green-lighted from higher up, Guterres' lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a person who tried to speak with him on my behalf to get the UN to stop requiring me to have a minder or escort as they have since February 2016 that things would be getting worse for me. It seems clearDujarric knew about or had already ordered the physical targeting of Inner City Press any time after 7 pm, even if an advised meeting or Guterres speech was taking place.
But a telling omission in Smale's letter is that as recently as June 26 dozens of non resident correspondents were allowed to stay in the UN past 7 pm drinking with Guterres on the North Lawn, ghoulishly in the name of press freedom with Smale. The event was not advised in the UN Media Alert, and I know that UN Security could not have been given a list of approved non resident correspondents since my timely RSVP to cover the event which had yet another canned Guterres speech was never answered. I was told by the organizer of that pro-Guterres event that the RSVP was ignored because it was open to all correspondents. Again, there is video in my contemporaneous coverage.Maybe this is why Smale and Guterres - and Dujarric - say livestreaming is a problem to be solved with Security violence and banning.
Since as Smale says there are thousands of those, many of whom write few articles and ask fewer questions, there is no way UN Security had a list of non resident correspondent to NOT beat up after 7 pm. They just decided / were told to start roughing up critical Inner City Press, sometime between June 22 until the July 3 assault which I reported on July 4 to the NYPD and was told, while a report was taken, that the UN asserts immunity. (That's the problem.)
Next Smale asserts I have been in locations not authorized by the Guidelines - without giving a single example. This does not comply with due process, to put it mildly. One wonder how it took the UN 45 days to write this (except for the desire to slow-walk things to try to prevent Inner City Press from covering the UN General Assembly in September). Even at censorship, today's UN is incompetent, particularly given the public money it requests and spends (that $6.7 billion again).
It is the “live broadcasts” -- reporting and commentary subject to protection under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 - that Smale next takes issue with. She cites, again without any example, profanities and derogatory assertions.
But Guterres' Spokesman Stephane Dujarric repeatedly used profanity, specifically the F-word, in the briefing room including telling me, “Matthew that's a stupid f*cking question.” Even more dispositively a former president of the UN Correspondents Association, Giampaoli Pioli who had ordered me to remove from the Internet an article about him arranging a UN screening for the Sri Lanka Ambassador of a film denying his country's war crimes after having had the Ambassador as his paying tenant in one of his many Manhattan apartment - the reason I quit UNCA - once called me an “assh*le” at the UN Security Council stakeout, during an advised meeting.
It happened at the Security Council stakeout so it was recorded, audio here. But DPI did nothing about this profanity and “derogatory assertion” by the president of UNCA, become their UN Censorship Alliance. So there is no rule, less enough of one to ban me for life.
There is another vague reference to refusing to obey UN Security officers, impossible to respond to and troubling in light of the video of Lt Dobbins and his colleague pulling me, and tearing my shirt. Is one not allowed to say, “I am a journalist?” What would Smale do?
What Smale does NOT do is public financial disclosure. As Inner City Press first reported, and asked Dujarric to explain without getting any answer, Smale is not listed in Guterres' online roster of public financial disclosures, unlike for example official Natalia Gherman, who was awarded her UN post after Smale.
Not that Guterres has a good record on transparency. As Inner City Press has asked him without response, Guterres has yet to even order a UN audit of the China Energy Fund Committee / Patrick Ho - President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa UN bribery case that Inner City Press, alone from (then?) among the UN press corps, has been covering at the Federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, including with the Smale, Dujarric and Guterres reviled Periscope livestream.
Guterres did not act on Inner City Press' 25 June 2018 letter to alleging nepotism in the handing of the management of the Security Council's website to the photographer husband of the chief of staff of the Department of Political Affairs, nor on Inner City Press now ironic request that he provide protect to the Press being target. It was Guterres, it turns out, who was and is behind the targeting.
Most Orwellian, halfway through page 3 Smale attempts to use questions I have had to ask at the UN Delegates Entrance since she and Guterres banned me from the UN Security Council stakeout from July 3 on. At that new stakeout, I have interviewed among others outgoing Human Rights Commissioner Prince Zeid (whose abuse of whistleblowers I have also reported) and Permanent Representatives such as those from Kazakhstan and even Burundi. So which unnamed member states is Smale claiming have complained to her and Guterres: Cameroon? The United Kingdom? France? Morocco?
In fact, one of the three specific (now in retrospect devious) warning letter Smale cites involved the Moroccan delegation falsely claiming I could not take photographs or record and live-stream at the UN Security Council stakeout. But the Guidelines permit that.
The DPI staff who passed along the Morocco complaint were orally apologetic but that's now for naught. The Kafkaesque file was being built. The last of the complaints is the most self-serving: Smale's own deputy Maher Nasser, in an abuse of position that I complained to Smale in writing about prior to her “ruling,” directed to a letter to me claiming I could not record him in an approved stakeout area. It's that he was embarrassed by what he said, and he since then has blocked me on Twitter, another strange practice for a UN official but once that Dujarric himself has engaged in.
Smale claimed in a July 19 response to the DC-based whistleblower protection group Government Accountability Project that Dujarric and the four other spokespeople his office would be answering my e-mailed question in respect to what she called my “journalistic endeavour.” But they answer less than 20% of the questions - one a day, the easiest of the five I ask - and I am being banned from covering the UN Security Council, whose mishandling ofYemen and Myanmar, and non-handling or worse of Cameroon I have a right to cover and Inner City Press' audience have a right to follow online including in live-streams. Most pressingly, Guterres and Smale want to block me from covering member states in the UN General Assembly high level week in late September, the deadline for accreditation for which is September. A conflicted Secretariat has no right to ban a well-read media from covering this diplomatic dance of nations. This corruption and censorship must be reversed, and acted on, before September 5.
The final sin cited by Smale is that when Inner City Press was unjustly evicted from its long time shared office, for having asserted a right to cover events in the UN Press Briefing Room unless some official paper said it was closed - and nevertheless leaving as soon as requested by a UN Security officer - it did not move its years of files out fast enough. In fact, I was advised at that time that UN DPI's and the Office of the Secretary General's lawless crusade against Inner City Press might still be turned around; from February 19 until April 16, 2016 I did not enter or “occupy” the office, even when I could have. It was the UN which ultimately dumped my files out onto First Avenue then, as Guterres and Smale have now dumped me, with conflicts of interest and without due process.
Can this pseudo-legal permanent censorship order stand? I will do everything in my power that the answer is no, and that I can return to covering the UN the same as pro-Guterres state media from countries like Morocco and the Gulf, and corporate media which only want easy quotes and no critique. If freedom of the press means anything, this will not stand.
Forty five days after Inner City Press' reporter was roughed up by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' Security officers as he covered the UN Budget Committee meeting on Guterres' $6.7 billion budget, a formal request for full reinstatement has been filed with President of the UN General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak, below. The filing says, " Before setting forth the legal basis, I remind you that the day you were elected President of the General Assembly, I asked you at your press encounter about the UN bribery case of John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng (to which the case of Sam Kutesa and Patrick Ho of CEFC has since been added). You replied, There will be no secrets. To give any meaning to this, you cannot stand by as an investigative journalist is roughed up and banned, and is threatened with not being able to cover the 2018 General Assembly High Level Week for the first time in 12 years, simply because the Secretary General doesn’t like my coverage and questions about corruption, use of public funds, under-performance in Cameroon, etc. The deadline for covering the upcoming UNGA week is September 5. I asked that you ensure all my rights – and S303 – are restored (well) before that time."
The filing continues: "Dear President of the UN General Assembly,
I write to request that you restore of all my rights as an accredited journalist at the UN, specifically my reinstatement as a ‘resident’ UN journalist with full access rights to UN premises, consistent with the UN Media Guidelines1, as well as the return of my office. The decisions taken by the UN Secretariat in 2016 to downgrade my status as a non-resident journalist, and then in 2018 to withdraw my access rights and to forcibly eject and ban me from the UN premises since 3 July 2018 are ultra vires.
Before setting forth the legal basis, I remind you that the day you were elected President of the General Assembly, I asked you at your press encounter about the UN bribery case of John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng (to which the case of Sam Kutesa and Patrick Ho of CEFC has since been added). You replied, There will be no secrets. To give any meaning to this, you cannot stand by as an investigative journalist is roughed up and banned, and is threatened with not being able to cover the 2018 General Assembly High Level Week for the first time in 12 years, simply because the Secretary General doesn’t like my coverage and questions about corruption, use of public funds, under-performance in Cameroon, etc. The deadline for covering the upcoming UNGA week is September 5. I asked that you ensure all my rights – and S303 – are restored (well) before that time.
The UN Secretary General does not have the delegated authority under the UN Charter to take decisions in relation to the conduct of the media or to institute sanctions on the media, just as he has no authority to take such decisions in relation to government representatives or non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Under Article 97 of the UN Charter, the Secretary General’s role is limited to that of the “Chief Administrative Officer” of the organisation (he has responsibility for the administration of the human, financial and other resources of the organisation) and he cannot assume further duties unless “entrusted to do so” by the UN General Assembly, Security Council, ECOSOC or Trustee Council (Article 98 of the UN Charter)2. To-date, no UN General Assembly, Security Council or ECOSOC resolution has been passed conferring on the Secretary General the role as decision-maker on media accreditation, adjudicating disputes with the media, or instituting and monitoring sanctions against the media. As such any decisions on my accreditation, access and resident status cannot be taken by the Secretary General, and must rest with the General Assembly, the main decision-making organ of the UN.
By way of background, I am a journalist who has been reporting on the UN and its specialized agencies since 2004, accredited by the UN in 2005 and made a resident correspondent in 2006 until that was stripped from me as I pursued the John Ashe / Ng Lap Seng case into the UN Press Briefing Room, inappropriately “lent out” by the SG’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric. My articles, published at innercitypress.com3 are widely read around the world and, as is relevant here, at UN Headquarters in New York and other UN duties stations, by Member States, UN staff and by those with an interest in the workings of the organization. My articles are frequently critical of the UN establishment and its senior officials. The fact that I bear witness to inconvenient truths, effectively as a whistleblower undertaking protected activity, is no justification for my illegal censure and ill-treatment.
The decisions taken by the Secretariat in 2016 to downgrade my status to non-resident journalist, and then in 2018 to withdraw my access rights and to forcibly eject me and ban me from the UN premises are fundamentally flawed, retaliatory, unethical, tainted by conflict of interest and evidence of corruption. My physical ejection was also criminal, and I have filed a criminal complaint with the New York City Police (reference #2018-017-2848_see attached) on 4_ July 2018, which complaint is still pending. Further, the Secretary General has a clear conflict of interest in my case stemming from my reporting, on an ongoing basis, allegations of corruption, fraud, serious misconduct and unethical behaviour at the top echelons of the UN, as well as on the continuing retaliation against UN whistleblowers. I have broken the news on many stories at innercitypress.com which sadly reflect negatively on the performance of senior UN officials, including the Secretary General.
Many of the allegations of misconduct I have reported publicly at innercitypress.com have been substantiated through ‘duly authorised’ UN investigations, including the UN’s gross institutional failure in responding to the child sexual abuse and pedophilia by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the abuse of authority by senior UN officials against Anders Kompass (see CAR Review Panel Report A/71/994). The material I have published on innercitypress.com has been used by UN investigators as evidence in their ‘duly authorised’ investigations5. My articles continue to break the news on sexual abuse, perpetrated by UN peacekeepers and staff, against vulnerable people whom the UN is supposed to protect.
I drew the international community’s attention to the human rights violations in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon and your apparent silence in responding to these abuses, which was noted by many anglophone Cameroonians. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein belatedly issued a statement on 25 July 2018 condemning the abuses6. I also reported the Secretary General’s apparent failure to initiate an audit of the China Energy Fund Committee / Patrick Ho / Sam Kutesa UN bribery case, which has resulted in a US criminal prosecution for bribery and international money laundering7.
I closely cover UN public financial disclosures as you know, as discovered only yesterday that USG DPI Alison Smale, who purported to be doing a “review” of me without once speaking to me or given me an opportunity to be heard, is not listed on the Public Financial Disclosure website, despite being given her position prior to Natalia Gherman at UNRCCA, who is listed. You said, There will be no secret. USG Smale, on whom I have reported such as above (as well as what whistleblowers told me was diversion of funds meant for Swahili programming to “social media propaganda for SG Guterres”) has a conflict of interest in reviewing me. For the reasons in this letter, for the good of the UN and as required by law, you must take action (see below).
For years I have reported publicly the UN’s failure to protect its whistleblowers, including high profile cases such as Anders Kompass, Caroline Hunt-Matthes, Miranda Brown and Emma Reilly. My public reporting of these failures by the UN to protect its whistleblowers have now been substantiated by the UN Joint Inspection Unit, in their recent report8 and recognised by the UK Parliamentary Committee on International Development’s Inquiry into Sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector9. I have also reported publicly that the ongoing retaliation against UN whistleblowers appears to violate the US law for the protection of UN whistleblowers (Section 7048 of the US Consolidated Appropriations Act), which stipulates that the State Department must withhold 15% of the US’ annual financial contributions to the UN unless the UN “implements” best practice for the protection of whistleblowers.
Given that I have publicly reported allegations of serious misconduct, wrongdoing and unethical conduct at the top of the UN and that these allegations clearly reflect negatively on the performance as Secretary General and that of UN senior officials (his subordinates), neither he nor his senior officials can bring an impartial and objective view to my case.
The International Code of Conduct of Civil Servants, to which the Secretary General is bound, states:
“Conflicts of interest may occur when an international civil servant’s personal interests interfere with the performance of his/her official duties or call into question the qualities of integrity, independence and impartiality required the status of an international civil servant.”
The failure to report and address a conflict of interest constitutes serious misconduct under the UN’s Staff Regulations and Rules. UN Staff Regulation 1.2 m states:
“A conflict of interest occurs when, by act or omission, a staff member’s personal interests interfere with the performance of his or her official duties and responsibilities or with the integrity, independence and impartiality required by the staff member’s status as an international civil servant. When an actual or possible conflict of interest does arise, the conflict shall be disclosed by staff members to their head of office, mitigated by the Organization and resolved in favour of the interests of the Organization.”
In the case of a conflict of interest by the Secretary General, the matter shall be referred to the President of the General Assembly. The UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services’ (OIOS) classifies ‘conflict of interest’ as ‘Category I’ ‘Serious’, the highest level of misconduct, “according to the relative seriousness of the contravention and risk to the Organization”10.
Further, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
“Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of his rights and obligations...”
I have not been provided with access to any such independent and impartial tribunal. Instead the Secretariat has wrongfully and unilaterally taken on the role of judge and executioner, with a clear lack of independence and impartiality. The Secretariat claimed in 2016 that it cancelled my ‘resident’ journalist status because of my allegedly not upholding the UN Media Guidelines; however, notwithstanding my categorial rejection of this claim, its decision is in any event tainted by conflict of interest and hence fundamentally flawed. While Mr. Antonio Guterres was not in office as Secretary General at the time the Secretariat took its tainted and fundamentally flawed decision in 2016 to rescind my resident status, he has perpetuated the wrongful decision, injustice and violation of my human rights: this must now be urgently corrected. The Secretariat has unlawfully appointed itself as the decision-maker in terms of determining the residency, access and accreditation rights of journalists, without having the delegated legal authority or mandate to do so. There are no legal instruments conferring such decision-making authority on the Secretariat, and as such the decisions taken to rescind my access rights and ban me from the premises are unlawful. With NGOs, the authority to grant accreditation and access is retained by Member States, through the Committee on NGOs. The Secretariat clearly has a conflict of interest in deciding on the rights of journalists, especially in cases where the journalist has been critical of the Secretariat’s performance.
I request that you, as the President of the General Assembly, the decision-making organ of the United Nations:
1) Immediately rescind the Secretariat’s ultra vires, fundamentally flawed, retaliatory, corrupt, unethical decisions to withdraw my status as a ‘resident’ UN journalist and ban from the UN premises – these unilateral decisions are tainted by clear conflict of interest;
2) Immediately reinstate me as a ‘resident’ UN accredited journalist and restore all of my access rights (consistent with the UN Media Guidelines), including to a suitable office in the UN premises, specifically S-303A which is barely used, by one who has asked no questions in a decade and barely came in, and to remove the taint;
3) Ensure that UN senior officials, including in the Department of Safety and Security, Department of Public Information, and the Spokesperson and Deputy Spokesperson desist from taking any further retaliatory actions against me.
4) Failing that I request that you immediately lift the immunity of the Secretary General, as he holds responsibility as the ‘Chief Administrative Officer’ of the Secretariat for my physical ejection from the UN premises on 4 July 2018, detailed in the attached complaint to the NYC police, so that the NYC police may investigate my complaint.
Further, I urge you to put measures in place to ensure that the Secretariat acts with integrity, independence and impartiality, and that it upholds the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including on freedom of expression, to ensure that the injustice I have suffered is not repeated.
I believe that my reinstatement as a ‘resident’ journalist with full restoration of my access rights and office would be in the best interests of the organization and consistent with the wishes of Member States, many of whom continue to express strong concerns about my situation and more generally about the retaliation against journalists and whistleblowers. I note your statement on World Press Freedom Day (3 May 2018)11:
“When journalists are silenced, people suffer. And when journalists are free to do their work, people are given tools that can help guide them to decent lives on a sustainable planet.
And, journalists are also crucial to what we do here – at the United Nations. They bring our work outside these halls. They communicate with people we sometimes cannot. They hold us to account, and call us to action.
So, on this day and all days, let us reassure journalists that they can count on us.
Let us recommit: to protect them, to include them, and to respect the role that they play both inside and outside these walls.”
The credibility of the UN will be further eroded if it continues to retaliate against and crackdown on a journalist for exposing wrongdoing and unethical behavior.
The foregoing is sent without prejudice and under reservation of all rights.
Matthew Russell Lee
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