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UN Threw Press Into Street 1 Year Ago, BuzzFeed Chimed In, Of Gallach & Cholera

By Matthew Russell Lee, 4th in a Series

UNITED NATIONS, February 10 – It was Ban Ki-moon's UN which used eight security officers to throw me onto First Avenue, without resistance, and break my laptop. But it was Ban's head of communications who had signed the letter. So I decided that I needed to try to speak with her.

   But being Banned from the UN, how to do it? I'd noticed an email from UNESCO, some event in the lobby with Irina Bokova, Ban's wannabe successor. I RSVP-ed then walked from the 26th Street NY Public Library to the UN at dusk.

  At the entrance stood a woman from UNESCO. A UN security officer came closer. They checked the list: there was my name, Matthew Russell Lee. The security officer shrugged.

I went through the metal detector and on into the lobby, with its checkerboard floor and  and table stacked high with crackers, cheese and fruit. Bokova was a no-show. But I saw Gallach talking with Edmond Mulet, Ban's chief of staff who had overseen the UN's introduction of cholera to Haiti while Ban's envoy there, and had denied it since. It was time to make my move.

 “Ms Gallach,” I began. “I think we got off on the wrong foot.”

   She gave a fake-seeming smile, gesturing for her factotum Darrin Farrant to come over. Him, I knew: he'd been in my meetings with Gallach's predecessor Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, including when Launsky, out of character, ordered me to remove from the door to my office the Free UN Coalition for Access sign. This didn't bode well.

   With Darrin Farrant as a witness, Gallach said “there are rules and they have to be followed.”

“What rule did I break?”

This seemed to stump her. You know, she said, I'm sure you know.

But I don't. I was just trying to cover a meeting in the UN Press Briefing Room--

I know, Gallach cut in, just like you stood outside the UNCA ball down on Wall Street in December.

Now I remembered seeing her there, even exchanging a few lines. “You see?,” I told her. “It's nothing new. I think UNCA is involved in the UN corruption scandal.”

Gallach rolled her eyes. I felt even my chance to plead slipping away.

Look, I'm a simple person, I told her. I'm willing to do penance, physical penance. I could clean the UN basement, or move furniture around. I just need full access back to do my job.

You should have thought of that before, she said smugly.

“When?” I asked. “Before I went into the UN Press Briefing Room?”

Mulet came back over and shepherded Gallach away. I went to where I'd set up my laptop and searched again on line. The BuzzFeed piece was up, quoting unnamed UNCA officials that I'd tried to spy on their meeting. Spying on journalists? In the UN Press Briefing Room? It still seemed so absurd to me that I still thought it could quickly be turned around. But that was not to be. The reporting on corruption hit a nerve. And now they would strike back with impunity. There is no law at the UN. The First Amendment stops at First Avenue.


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