Matthew Lee, who runs the online Inner City Press blog, has long been a thorn in the side of many U.N. officials with his combative and relentless style of reporting. “ICP” puts out several lengthy stories a day about U.N. proceedings, with a particular emphasis on corruption, incompetence and lack of accountability at the international body.
The content is often deeply in the weeds of U.N. activity with no hearing, speech or photo op too small or dry for Lee’s coverage, and he is regularly seen zipping through the building and typing on his laptop in any nook or cranny he can find. He uses Periscope to livestream events and offers running commentaries of the day’s proceedings as he walks home through New York City at night.
And so on Tuesday, Lee hovered outside a late-night, closed-door hearing on the U.N. peacekeeping budget. Other outlets had reported that the budget had been agreed on over the weekend, suggesting a looming stalemate had been broken. But Lee’s reporting suggested things might not be so clear cut.
Partial video of the incident taken on his phone shows Lee chatting with a committee member — but it then cuts to a few minutes later when a scuffle can be heard. He claims that his shirt was torn, his computer damaged and his arm twisted by a security guard as he was trying to write a story about his conversation.
“I’ve been told nothing,” he told Fox News outside the building as he paced through tourists. “It’s totally corrupt.”
A security guard at the gate confirmed Lee had been banned from the building, but would not say why or for how long.
“On the evening of 3 July, U.N. Security was alerted to a violation in the use of an access card, in which a person was using his access card to enter an off-limits area,” Haq said.
“At that point, Mr. Lee became loud and belligerent, and resisted the instructions of UN security officers. He was then escorted outside the building, along with his laptop and backpack.
Certainly, Lee is no stranger to spats with U.N. officials and also some fellow journalists. He had his credentials downgraded from resident correspondent to non-resident correspondent in 2016 after a spat over coverage, and was last month ejected from the building after being told he had to leave also for allegedly breaching rules surrounding when non-resident correspondents can be in the building.
Guidelines states that non-resident correspondents “only have access to UNHQ on weekends or after hours accompanied by a resident correspondent or when a meeting is advised as taking place.” Lee claims that because a budget meeting was indeed taking place, he was within his rights to be there.
After he was removed from the building last month, the Government Accountability Projectexpressed alarm over the incident, saying it was unexplained and part of a “long history of harassment” against Lee.
The Government Accountability Project is deeply concerned about the mistreatment of Matthew Lee for two reasons. First, he has covered U.N. whistleblower cases accurately and in detail, and we regard the mistreatment of him as retaliatory,” the GAP said.
Lee agrees, saying he thinks it was a retaliatory act from a body that has shown itself allergic to accountability and scrutiny.
Absolutely they sent a message,” he told Fox News Wednesday before the ban was announced. “If you screw with us you’re not going to have an office and you’re going to be hunted down and thrown out of the building.”
It’s really nasty.”
Everyone in there reads him,” one official who declined to identify himself told Fox News, pointing to the looming U.N. building. “Everyone.”