15 MARCH 2016


Unwittingly, those who plotted an arbitrary expulsion of Inter-City Press (ICP) UN correspondent Matthew Russell Lee, after his 10 years of coverage, in fact offered him a surprising opportunity.

Anyone with actual media experience would recognize a popular description of journalistic reporting as "the business of looking for trouble." You have to deal with it, not repress it. Freedom of expression is not a license to medially offend. There is a line - sometimes fine, often rough - that draws a difference. But it is not up to someone across New York's First Avenue to license roughing up a correspondent of ten years' coverage, however irritating or unfairly bothersome he may sometimes be. It was said that "the word was at the beginning," and it shall remain as transient egos come and go.

While serious questions about coverage, status and attitude of current correspondents at UN headquarters require a substantive, respectful review with a sharp focus, it has to be noted that the communications and information component of the UN Secretariat itself these days requires a more intensive internal search. For example, while the Secretary-General's spokesman team headed by Stéphane Dujarric has adequate experience in press briefings, and the media accreditation liaison unit has dedicated helpful staff, and the Department of Public Information has a sincere hard working head, looking further into certain key positions not only in DPI but also around the Secretary-General's office and other relevant departments would provide a clear picture and eventually more positive results.

Responding to trouble with more trouble is not an effective answer. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who devotes his full time and energy to raise urgent issues, deserves better service. Accredited correspondents need better coordination. The UN needs to regain the media role that it once had and it still deserves.