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As UN Evicted Press With No Appeal, Insiders Hyped Churkin's Complaint About Reuters

By Matthew Russell Lee, Part of Series, Video

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 – With diplomats, political capital was to be spent on the problems of their country, or “their” journalists. Some were protected: if the UN tried to oust a Moroccan journalist, which they wouldn't, for example, Ambassador Omar Hilale would be sure to protest. It wouldn't happen. When Russia's Vitaly Churkin called out Reuters' Lou Charbonneau, an advocate then and later, the UN insiders who ignored what Ban's Gallach and before that Voice of America did sprung to the defense of corporate Reuters. A journalist shouldn't need powerful supporters to cover the UN: it defeated the purpose. But that is how it worked.

  And the hierarchy, too. In a press conference to begin Angola's month as Security Council president, a non-favored journalist began a question about the impact of sanctions. Ol' Charbonneau of Reuters cut her off; I instinctively flipped him the bird. Probably I'll be the one to get in trouble, I thought. Before when Reuters' Charbonneau complained to the UN for the first time to try to get me out and it got leaked to me, he managed to get it blocked or BANned from Google's Search, calling it copyrighted, saying he'd never meant for it to be public.

  Wasn't that true of most leaks anyone including Reuters published? But it didn't matter, consistency. The UN did whatever it wanted, and most missions just wanted to try to have the ear or fingers of the scribes at Reuters. Freedom of the press be damned.

  And so without an office I spent whatever time the Security Council wasn't meeting, the time I couldn't access the second floor, down in the Vienna Cafe in the basement. Two of the tables had electrical outlets. Both were on the outside, and people passing by would ask me, “How are you?” I didn't know what to say. “They threw me out?” “Ban Ki-moon is corrupt?” I just nodded.

  A guy working for the UN's caterer whom I'd known for at least six years told me it was all Ban Ki-moon's fault, and to just wait for the next SG. But that was ten months away. Wouldn't I get all the way thrown out by then?

  Another guy I'd know a while, a guy who worked in the office of the new President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, told me to not worry too much about it and get an ulcer. “Think of your stomach,” he said. “It's not worth it.”

  “But they don't deserve for me to stand down and walk away,” I told him.

  “It's not about them, it's about your health,” he said.
  Another journalist came and told me that after I was ousted from the UNCA meeting back on January 29, the woman who Lou Charbonneau had later cut off - maybe WHY he cut her off - had stood up fro me, and said Giampaolo Pioli should have said, “You are mentally sick.”  He said that he and another had tried to propose that UNCA find another room, other than the UN Press Briefing Room, for its meeting. But to no avail.

It was for trying to cover this meeting that I had been thrown out, and that all this was happening. I couldn't get my mind around it: it was so petty and pretextual, but it was real. Had I made a mistake? But if not this “incident,” as Gallach has put it, wouldn't it have been another? This was Ban Ki-moon's revenge. So I emailed him and chief of staff Mulet a copy of the Jaffna video. Surely they would care? But they didn't. The stations of the cross continued.


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