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After UN Eviction, Coverage Then Re-Entry With Limited Access, Still In Place Year Later

By Matthew Russell Lee, Part of Series, Video

UNITED NATIONS, February 15 – I tried to ritualize my partial re-entry, with a "non resident correspondent" pass I would remain confined to for a year and counting. I spend an hour in the morning that day, February 25, 2016, in the park across from the UN with heroic homeless Haitian Adrian, talking with diplomats who stopped by, a few UN staffers who gave a thumbs-up then rushed across the street not wanting to be seen with me.

I called the reporter from Business Insider, who'd once been an intern reporting on the UN, and told him I was going to re-enter. People said it was only because of previous coverage the UN was forced to allow even this still-restricted pass. Then I called UN Media Accreditation and told them I wanted back in.

  “Okay go up to the pass office. They'll be waiting for you,” they said.

  “Not like last time when they said I was banned from all UN premises?” I asked. I'd started using that on-line: BANned, capital B-A-N, as in banned by Ban Ki-moon. “I want to get in for the noon briefing." “Then you better hurry.”

I walked north on First Avenue, the same way I'd walked down to the park after being told that I was BAN-ned worldwide. In the pass office, they were waiting for me, didn't ask to see a passport as they had last December. (Mine had visa and entry stamps from trips I'd taken with the Security Council, to Sudan, Kenya, the DR Congo, Djibouti and Cote d'Ivoire, and the one ill-fated trip with Ban to Sri Lanka. There would be no more of that.) 

  “Now go around the corner to get your photo taken. New pass, new photo.”

   After the photo was taken, I handed them a letter. This was all without prejudice. I did not concede anything. I just wanted back in.

   I got in another line at the metal detector. One of the UN Security guards I passed glared at me; the next high fived me. I kept my eyes on the prize. It was 11:56.

   Though the lobby with its carpet portraits of each Secretary General including the Nazi Kurt Waldheim. Through a turnstile on the first floor - here, my new Green P pass worked, as it wouldn't upstairs -- then along another hallway to the escalators. There was a cafe now in the lobby, to half replace the cafeteria closed down because the New York City Police Department thought a car bomber might target it from the FDR Drive. Up the escalator and down a hall to the Press Briefing Room, the room I was thrown out of on January 29, the ultimate entrapment.
   Inside Stephane Dujarric had started his briefing, which meant reading a series of press releases. The seat I usually used, front row extreme left, was empty, but Lou Charbonneau of Reuters was right next to it. I squeezed in, turned on my laptop. When Dujarric finished with the canned statements he called on Reuters first. Then he called on me:

“I had some questions about being pushed into the street with no due process, as you said.  But, I’ll put those at the end.  I wanted to ask you about Burundi first.  I saw the statement by the Secretary-General praising the reopening of some radio stations and the release of prisoners.  And I wanted to ask you two questions about that.  One is, is he aware, and what do you say that two of five radio stations have opened and they've been forced to sign pledges to not undermine the country's security?”

  There were still no answers to questions like this. But I was back. The question was, for how long?


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