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After Eviction, UN Chides Press for Covering Briefing Room, Power's Coleman Cites Friends

By Matthew Russell Lee, Part of Series, Video

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 – After getting evicted and restricted by the UN, I tried to make my purgatory work. I found a way to get back to swimming - I had to be back in the building before 7, so I could only even try to go up to the New York City public pool on 54th Street Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Even then it would be rush to get back - one evening, or afternoon really, a UN guard said no, no, the rules say you can't get in after 6.

  “I have the rule right here,” I told him.

  “I don't care what you have,” he said. “I have my orders.” He was Eastern European and I thought back to a long ago run in with just such a guard, when I used to play racquetball down in the third sub-basement garage, where now I met some sources. The guard had written down my ID number, said he had to file it. They had a file on me, but refused to show it when I asked. This was the UN.

  There were other refusals. I learned there would be an 8:30 am Security Council meeting about Western Sahara. I covered this every April and came in early - but this time, the glass doors to the Council were locked, and there wasn't even a guard to ask, manning the turnstile. I gestured to Ambassadors walking in, on the other side of the glass. Some shook their heads. It was hard to understand, and they had other priorities, other things to spend their and their countries' political capital on. This was what Gallach was counting on.

   I e-mailed the Congressional staffer about this new exclusion; he told me to start an “exclusion log” on GoogleDocs where we could share it. “No editorializing,” he told me. “Just the facts. When, where and by whom you were excluded.”
  He said his meetings in New York hadn't gone well. Gallach had invited in a group of insider reporters and let them do most of the talking. Then when he met with US Deputy Permanent Representative for "Management and Reform" Isobel Coleman at the US Mission, Coleman had told him matter-of-the-factly that “The other journalists don't like him.”

  “But it's not a popularity contest!” I told him. He said he agreed. But all he could suggest was to start the exclusion log. I started to fill it in.

Where my logs and exclusion got no respect was in the briefing room, the one I'd been thrown out of on January 29, triggering all this if only as a pretext. Lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric was away, or on vacation, or hiding in his office, so his Deputy Farhan Haq was in charge.
   Farhan even before the ouster had told other reporters, as far away as Burma or Myanmar as he called it, with an arrogant over-pronunciation he applied to every leader's name, that Inner City Press told lies. He maintained this even in the face of leaked documents. Now he had the podium and took full advantage of it.

  I asked why it was that the glass doors to the Security Council were locked and I got excluded.

  But you're not excluded, Haq said with a big smile. You're right here! He looked at the UNCA scribes in the front row for approval and got it. He was like the nerd in high school, trying to get in with the supposedly cool group by being even nastier then they were. I'm sure they'd call me nasty, but one thing I didn't and don't do is gang up.

  I told Farhan, or at least the UN transcript I thought, that because the glass doors were locked they only way to the Security Council was through the turnstile but my non resident correspondent pass didn't work on it.

  That's not true, Haq announced. I was a non resident correspondent, a Green P, for a while and I was always on the second floor.

  It's not that way anymore, I told him. Like twenty years ago he'd worked at IPS. That wasn't what got him the UN job, either, I'd been told. His father was an economist, or at least a UNDP economist, Bubala Haq. Maybe I'd written that once. Because Haq didn't hide his hatred of me.

  You're trying to obscure what you did in this room, he said.

 And what was that?

  You hid in the interpreters' booth, Haq said.

  Hid? The booths are glassed in. Who hides in a glass box?

  You know what you did, and your colleagues do too. He always said, “Right?” And if he had, at least the ones these days filling the front row would have said, “Yes.” It was like The Enemy of the People.


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