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Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


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Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

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After UN Evicted Press, Few Remaining Media Spoke Up, Bone Had Left, NY Sun Had Set

By Matthew Russell Lee, Series, Video, Reply

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 – It was weeks after the UN evicted and restricted me.  When I'd been attacked before in the UN -- deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown calling me a jerk in my first year, the UN censoring me from Google News the next, the United Nations Correspondents Association / Voice of America campaign to oust me in 2012 -- my defenders had been, at bottom, conservatives and their media. Sure, the Guardian had run a short piece, and a website about Sri Lanka. But Fox covered the Google censorship, and the National Review did the Voice of America scam.

  Now after the New York Times article about the eviction, they contacted me again, and I tried to pitch it. But something had changed: even they didn't focus so much on the UN. Ban Ki-moon had made it boring, even too boring to attacked. I sat in the focus booth, past 10 pm one night, trying to explain the Ng Lap Seng scandal to a conservative journalist who should, I thought, love the story. But nothing came of it. Ban had killed the UN and it protected him.

  The Mark Malloch Brown dust-up had been triggered when I wrote how he'd used UN Development Program money to produce what was, at bottom, a vanity publication. Nothing wrong with that - but do it with your own money. Or disclose it. MMB stopped where I sat on the second floor of the Conference Building, now Banned to me, and called me a jerk.

 But an hour later at the noon briefing, it was the New York Sun who asked about the insult and made the UN apologize. Now the Sun had set; the London Times' Bone had left. It wasn't even worth fighting Ban, they seemed to figure. I was alone, and getting attacked.

  Back in the MMB days I was in the bullpen too, just starting. But the bullpen was better back then: it was right by the spokesperson's office and the elevators. I'd be there typing in the evening and be able to jump out and ask officials questions as they waited for the elevators. And they'd answer.

 Once I asked Jean Marie Guehenno, the second of now five French heads of UN Peacekeeping in a row, about a Congo rebel Peter Kerim and what he wanted, to release Nepal troops he held.  He's crazy, Guehenno said, or on drugs. He wants boots for his soldiers, and his motorcycle returned to him. Those were the days.

One night in that old bullpen, a hand tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a red file that had been put in front of me. I opened it - it was about UNDP's forced disarmament program in Uganda, parents told to turn in their guns to get their kids unchained, paid for by the UN.

 You should give this to the New York Times, I told the guy, still a source of mine.

  “I'm giving it to you. I've seen the questions you've been asking in the briefing. You're the right one for this.”

And that was the story that, when I pursued it- with Dujarric even back then -- led to UNDP issuing a press release against me, putting it on the Spokesman's Office counter, to tell the other reporters that they had, in fact, been answering my questions. That was done the night of an UN
Correspondents Association Ball, my first; a French Canadian staffer, killed in the earthquake may she rest in peace, called me and said to come and see it, I'd hit the big time. I was in the library when she called, so must have still not had an office.

 Now they'd put me back to square one again, except that the bull pen now was a backwater on the fourth floor, with no one walking through. They were trying to kill my project, in stages, until they could do it all the way. The Times might slow time but it couldn't stop it. That was how they planned it.


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