Op-Ed:The UN Ousted Me For Uncovering Corruption

Matthew R. Lee, Esq., Inner City Press.

Something is Wrong at the UN: I Was Thrown Out on Feb 19 for Looking Into Corruption and Double Standards

by Matthew Russell Lee, Esq.
Something is wrong at the United Nations. As a journalist covering the UN for 10 years, after similarly covering The Bronx, I have been digging into a bribery scandal that broke last Fall. Then on February 19 I was thrown out of the UN building with only two hours notice. My UN Resident Correspondent’s pass was torn off my chest and UN Security guards threw my laptop out onto First Avenue. Audio here.

On Monday February 22, needing to cover the day’s Syria meeting of the UN Security Council, I had another journalist come to sign me in as a guest. I was told no; that I was banned from all UN premises, and ordered to leave the UN Pass office. 


For three days I covered the Security Council from the park across First Avenue from the UN.  It reminded me of some of the evictions I saw and experienced in The Bronx. But this was the United Nations.


After that, I entered the UN with much reduced access (a “non-resident correspondent” pass) with the directive to clear out eight years of interview and investigative files from the shared office space I have had for years. The Government Accountability Project has asked the US Mission under Ambassador Samantha Power to get involved, letter here.


But nothing was done. 


A journalist at the UN shouldn’t need a state sponsor’s intervention.


I am resisting, because I need my shared office space to edit videos and upload them, to conduct interviews and because the precedent that a journalist asking about UN corruption and failings, from Burundi to Yemen to Mali to Sri Lanka to Somalia and Libya (TV interview on ICP scoop here), can be ousted with no due process, as sheer lawless retaliation, is bad for journalism as a whole.


My underlying “crime” was trying on January 29 to cover a meeting of the UN Correspondents Association in the UN Press Briefing Room, where the daily noon briefing and other press conferences occur. Because I was not an invitee, I was ordered to leave.


Secretary General Ban Ki-moons spokesman Stephane Dujarric was summoned and asked me to leave “so I can see my f*cking kids” (ICP video embedded hereBuzzFeed story here). Then a single UN Security guard entered and told me Dujarric wanted me to leave. So I left.


A letter signed by Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach ordered my ousting as a credentialed UN correspondent. In previous reporting, I noted that Gallach attended the South South Awards with the now indicted [the former deputy ambassador of the Dominican Republic] Frank Lorenzo [who is reportedly set to plead guilty to bribery charges at the UN].  


Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta has contacted Gallach and urged that she rescind my ouster. She did not, instead telling Ramos-Horta that I had violated UNCA-negotiated rules on Jan 29. Apparently she has a one strike and you’re out rule, and no due process.



There is something very wrong at the United Nations. Both the next U.S. President and the next UN Secretary General must address it. Until then, I should be restored to my Resident Correspondent accreditation and shared office. And I should not be tailed around by Ban Ki-moon’s minders anymore.


Matthew Russell Lee, Esq. is a journalist at Inner City Press. Email Matthew.Lee@innercitypress.com and follow on Twitter @innercitypress and @FUNCA_info. Subscribe to his daily live Periscope broadcasts at  https://www.periscope.tv/innercitypress

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