Wednesday, March 1, 2017

After UN Eviction, AFP & Angola Freeze Out, Concern But Inaction from USUN's Pressman

By Matthew Russell Lee, SeriesVideo III

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 – After the UN's eviction, I wanted to scan and upload UN official Cristina Gallach's letter saying my files would be evicted on April 6. But If I left the UN, how could I get back in? I went to an event in the General Assembly lobby, Daniel Craig 007 talking about UN Mine Action. I Periscoped it, tweeted a few photos, addingthat I had to leave at 7, hashtag #ThanksGallach. Or better yet, #ThanksBan.

  The United Nations Correspondents Association scribes, smelling blood and seemingly in the know, ratcheted up their campaign. I went to a Security Council stakeout to ask the outgoing president of the Council, Angola's Gaspar Martin, a question about Burundi.

 “Journalists first,” the correspondent from Agence France Presse hissed. As if retyping that the French mission gave her was journalism. But they were able to enforce their will, the UN was happy to do it. I came down the ramp where US deputy David Pressman was speaking to a gaggle of scribes. I took out my tape recorder and joined the pack.

  “You have to move,” the guard at the top of ramp said loudly. I shook my head, no. “Move it,” he demanded, pointing to the Security Council stakeout twenty feet away. I could look but not touch, or in this case record. They'd gotten the two tier system they had wanted. Journalists first!

  One of the UN Correspondents Association members, who'd quietly tried to help me before in 2012, tried again this time. He said he'd draft a letter for others to sign, that what was happening to me was too much. Send me a copy, I told him. Then he added, he might sent it out through UNCA.  No way, I told him. That got it all wrong.

  Finally he didn't send any letter at all, letting Giampaolo Pioli tell him that UNCA itself would belatedly fight for the rights of the Green P's, the non resident correspondents. Bullshit, I told him.

  Not only the end of the road, but the end of the month had arrived. I'd been emailed an invitation from Angola to their end of presidency reception, in the cheaper, South Delegates Dining Room. Their spokesman approached me at the stakeout. I was thanking him for the invite when he tried to revoke it. It would be better, he said, if I didn't in fact come. “The spokesman will be there,” he said, as if I didn't deal with Dujarric everyday.

 I can act polite, I told him. He nodded, apparently understanding me to be saying I wouldn't go. But that, I wouldn't accept, as least not in writing. I told Angola's ambassador, the spokesman's boss, See you tonight and he nodded. So I went, even though the spokesman stood in the corner glaring, or really gaping, as if it was unheard of hutzpa to show up to something I had been invited in writing to.

   I remained on the outside raging, as the rain pelted down on the balcony outside the Delegates' South Dining Room. It was an existential battle to remain present. And to write stories, whatever the restrictions. I uploaded from the lobby, and tweeted from the subway. I was a 21st century blogger. Journalists first: what a joke. Only I wasn't laughing.