UN Pulls Credentials of Correspondent Over Spurious Charges
NEW YORK, September 7 (C-Fam) The United Nations has permanently canceled the press credentials of long-time UN correspondent Matthew Lee, founder and chief correspondent of the Inner City Press. The issue likely stems from what is often a testy relationship between UN bureaucrats, UN diplomats, and those they often view as outsiders. The often feisty and indefatigable Inner City Press is indeed an outsider.
Lee and his colleagues have covered the UN closely for years and have covered a wide range of issues including corruption, peacekeeping, and human rights. Inner City reports have been highly critical of top UN officials. Lee and his colleagues have therefore been a longtime thorn in the side of UN insiders.
For years and until February 2016, Lee carried prized resident-journalist credentials that allowed him to cover most UN events, including official press briefings. Perhaps even more prized, the badge gave him an office in the press area. The UN charged him with violating correspondent guidelines in February 2016 and downgraded his status to non-resident correspondent and took away his office.
On August 17th, Lee received a five-page letter from UN Under-Secretary-General Alison Smale, who formerly worked as a correspondent for the New York Times. She informed him that he would permanently lose his UN press credentials. Among other charges, Smale cited a July 3rd dust-up that saw Lee roughed up by uniformed UN security and escorted from UN headquarters. At the time, Lee was covering a UN budget meeting that had gone to 10 pm, long after the building was closed, but that would still have been open to those with UN badges, including Lee.
Smale’s letter charged Lee with “trying to gain unauthorized access to a locked area” of the UN and with refusing to comply with “repeated requests” by UN security to leave the premises. Lee had just video-recorded an interview with Tommo Mothe of Cameroon, the chairman of the UN budget committee, and was sitting down to type up his notes in the area outside several UN conference rooms and near the Vienna Café, common areas where anyone with a UN badge may congregate. The video appears to refute the Alison Smale’s charges.
Without a doubt, Lee is unorthodox. He is aggressive where other correspondents may view themselves as part of a club. He has been seen as an outsider and perhaps even a gadfly by the bigfoot journalists of the United Nations who tend to seek cozy relationships with top UN officials. The Smale letter includes charges that he has offended some of these other UN correspondents.
Inner City Press continues to cover UN business since many UN meetings are live-streamed, but what has changed is that Matthew Lee and his team will no longer be able to put a microphone in a bureaucrats’ faces and demand answers.
Pro-life groups understand such outsider status. Pro-life groups attending negotiations have been shadowed by UN security because anonymous sources at the UN have called them “dangerous.” Pro-life lobbyists have had their official badges pulled over spurious charges. UN bureaucrats have been openly hostile to pro-life and pro-family groups and the individuals representing them. What has happened to Matthew Lee and Inner City Press is all too familiar to social conservatives at the UN.