UNCA Board found Mathew Lee of ‘Inner City Press’ guilty on a range of allegations
The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Board established to investigate Matthew Lee’s conduct has found Lee guilty on a range of allegations.
The Board of Examination appointed by the UNCA Executive Committee has encouraged the news blog Inner City Press owned by Matthew Lee to publicize its sources of funding.”
In writing his blog Mathew Lee does not always separate opinion from fact or properly source his information. He has no editor and he writes on the fly, by his own admission to get as many stories out as possible in a day. Board cannot rule on Lee’s ways of covering or filing stories.
Mathew Lee has been saying that the UNCA Executive Committee is seeking his expulsion from the UN as an accredited journalist. UNCA members denied categorically this kind of allegation.
Lee is using a June 21, 2012 letter sent by a VOA editor to the UN Department of Public Information as a support for his allegations, that UNCA wants him ejected from the UN.
The Board found the VOA letter came way after Lee’s attacks against the VOA correspondent at the UN. Lee cannot take this letter out of context, and he cannot use it as a justification to continue his crusade against colleagues.
*Excerpts from the Board of Examination Report into Matthew Lee’s Conduct:
Some UNCA members consider Lee's behavior, personally and in email communications, to be offensive and threatening. The Board urges Lee to cease such offensive behavior and act in a collegial manner.
The Board recommends that Lee immediately stops his unjustified attacks against his colleagues. He must not tarnish his colleagues’ reputations by simply publishing unproven allegations against them.
Lee should deliver his promised apology in writing, post it in his blog, and take down false stories and accusations from his website, and from any other sites where he made similar false accusations.
Furthermore, “Giam Pioli , President of the United Nation Correspondent Association provided the Board with documents of a small family real estate company that he owns with his wife and sister. The Board found that Pioli received legal rent money from Kohona when he was a staff member of the United Nations, working as chief of the UN Treaty Section. The apartment was rented through an agent, a signed lease and at market rates. It is a matter of public record. Kohona left that apartment in January 2006. Pioli said that ever since there has been no financial relation between him and Kohona. Lee knew since 2009 that Kohona was Pioli's tenant.
Lee also accused Pioli of granting clearance for the showing of a film without consulting with Lee and other Executive Committee members. Lee said that Pioli had given Kohona some privileges in showing the film. Pioli provided the Board with documentation that Lee did not oppose the showing and attended the press conference that was organized after an official request from Kohona. The matter was treated as any other request from UN missions. Lee was informed prior to the screening and raised concerns about it to UNCA Vice President Charbonneau but never asked formally that the screening not be held.
The Board has found no conflict of interest by Pioli’s decision to show Kohona’s documentary. Lee’s accusations are not grounded. Lee verbally regretted the story to Pioli in September 2011 before the Executive Committee. Lee accepted to amend the story, and shook hands with Pioli, who said then that he considered Lee’s regret as an apology. Lee did not oppose. However, in May 2012, Lee since resurrected his old accusations of a conflict of interest.
In one case, Lee accused one of his colleagues of stealing his “Feltman scoop.” He wrote in his blog on May 25, 2012: “On May 21 after seeing Charbonneau listed on the Reuters article which stole the Feltman scoop.” He admitted that he told Louis Charbonneau that he “disgusted” him, explaining that “So disgust was and is expressed, but no violence or even the threat of it. Charbonneau tried to use this word ‘disgust, -- accurate, as it turns out -- to get the UN to eject Inner City Press.”
In this specific case, the Board found that several wires and media outlets published stories on Jeffery Feltman’s appointment at the UN, attributing their information to U.S. government sources in Washington D.C. Charbonneau did not write that story, thus he did not “steal” it from Lee’s ICP. The wires' stories on this appointment came seven weeks after Lee’s series of stories, in which he mentioned Feltman, but also other U.S. officials as possible replacement for Lynn Pascoe at the UN.
Furthermore, the news of Feltman's appointment had been reported by others after Lee's post was published and before Reuters reported it. Given these facts, allegation that Charbonneau or Reuters had "stolen" Lee's reporting, or the suggestion that Lee was the only source of the information about Feltman, is unfounded.
The Board found that Lee’s accusations in this regard are based on a misunderstanding of journalistic ethics.
Lee also published in his blog accusations against a colleague, who works for a news agency apparently funded in part by a state, that that colleague is working in support of that state's mission, despite the fact the journalist is a citizen of another country. The Board found that Lee provides no evidence to these unacceptable and dangerous allegations.
The Board found that missions to the UN routinely invite a select number of journalists to off-the-record briefings, and that Lee waged a campaign against a specific mission to the UN, allegedly because they didn’t invite Lee to their private background briefings.
The Board cannot rule on this issue. But it was remarkable that Lee used a photograph of a permanent representative of that mission in a gratuitous manner, and inquired into the sexuality of other UNCA members. Lee eventually withdrew the picture from his blog after many complaints from his colleagues and others.
Lee accused one of his colleagues of “stealing” another “scoop” on Ibrahim Gambari. The respective journalist responded with an email that “after Mr. Lee's accusation against me about my tweet on Friday 1st of June (…) I tried to find a reference on his Blog to the same info that I tweeted but found nothing that says: SG Ban Ki-moon has informed some council members that he will let Ibrahim Gambari go this summer.’ That is not the same as saying ‘Gambari has resigned sensing he wouldn't be renewed’ as in Mr. Lee's blog of the 21st of May.”
The Board found that Lee’s accusations against his colleague in this case are unfair.
Lee wrote repeatedly to editors of members of the Board and editors of members of the Executive Committee, seeking answers about his colleagues conduct, and accusing his colleagues of trying to censor his work. He created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for some who criticize him. As a result of his email to editors, two Board members resigned out of fear for their jobs. A third resigned citing failed mediation attempts by the Board.
The Board found that Lee’s conduct in this matter is unacceptable.
The board found that Lee published information in his blog apparently learned by overhearing two-party private conversations on different occasions, describing but not naming the correspondents in one instance. The colleagues said that Lee's tactics threatened their ability to assure sources of confidentiality. They said this is not an acceptable journalistic practice. The Board cannot rule on Lee’s ways of covering or filing stories.
Informed sources have also said he will also be prosecuted before a court of law.
- Asian Tribune -