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UNcensored 3: Banned From All UN Premises, Watching Scam Briefing From the Park

By Matthew Russell Lee, Series started here

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 – After being thrown out of the UN by eight Security officers for trying to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room, I was back on First Avenue first thing Monday morning, to try to get signed into the UN as a guest by another correspondent.

 But at the door for the pass and sign-in office, one Security officer told us he'd been asked to be on the look-out for just this.

  “You can wait inside,” the guard said. “But I have to call my supervisor.” It was nearing 10 am, when the Security Council meeting would start. I looked in my notebook for Spokesman Stephane Dujarric's phone number and dialed it: voice mail.  I left a message, I am being blocked from even entering as a guest.

  Then the officer's supervisor showed up, Matthew Sullivan was his name. I'd written about him before, not unsympathetically, after he got a rib broken by Turkey's Erdogan's bodyguards out of control. (Ban Ki-moon ended up apologizing to Erdogan for the incident, and putting Sullivan on paid leave, another of Ban's profiles in courage.)

  But Sullivan was in a fighting mood today.  “C'mon Matty,” he told me. “You know you can't be in here. You're banned from all UN premises.” Audio here.

  Actually, I didn't know that. I told him all I wanted to do at that point was try to cover the Security Council meeting by watching the webcast, could I do it in here?

   “No, you have to leave,” Sullivan said. Next thing I knew I was out on First Avenue again. Yet another UN correspondent called me and I told him what was happening.

  “I always thought they'd do this to you,” he said. “I wonder why it took them so long.”

   I got to the park on 43rd Street right across from the UN, Ralph Bunche Park, they call it, and I set up shop on the base of a metal monument there. The UN's wi-fi didn't even reach out to the street, so I used my cell phone's hotspot. I uploaded the audio of Sullivan saying, “You're banned from all UN premises;” I tried to listen to and live-tweet the Security Council meeting on Syria.

  Finally I watched the day's noon briefing. Dujarric from his mushroom-like wooden podium called on a seemingly eternal United Nations Correspondents Association board member, Masood Haider of Pakistan's Daily Dawn.

  “I want to know about that blogger Matthew Lee,” Masood said. “He is spewing all kinds of allegations on the Internet, some of them not true. What is his status?” Video here.

  Dujarric welcomed this question, this colloquy, and replied, “Matthew should come back in and remove his belongings.”  I sat in the park across the street, now shouting at my laptop. I was told I couldn't enter the UN. How could they use the UN noon briefing to talk about my accreditation status, without any right of reply?

  There was, of course, Twitter and I used it. Soon my phone was out of power and my hotspot growing weak. I had to find another place to work and headed inland. The public library on 46th Street had a second floor with children's book and some raised tables looking across the street at a restaurant called Aretsky's Patroon. I plugged in my laptop and kept plugging. This would not be a short fight, it was starting to dawn on me. Like Pakistan's Daily Dawn.

  From the public library branch on 46th Street I started writing to all the UN officials I knew. To be continued...


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