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Amid Azeri Food, Talk of Council's Low Graduation Rate, Surprise at Attack on Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 30 -- With one day left in Azerbaijan's month atop the UN Security Council, rice and fish and thin meat pies were served eight floors above First Avenue across from the UN in the Turkish Center. Ambassadors went over the day's and Sunday's sessions on Syria.

   One Permanent Representative mused to Inner City Press that the long stakeouts after Wednesday's session had been unnecessary: "We said it all in consultations." There was much praise for General Robert Mood for being factual, and substantially less for UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.

  "For the money he makes," one diplomat said, "he should just learn to take questions like Le Roy and Guehenno used to do." Not only his performance at Tuesday's noon briefing but his failure to do a stakeout after 11 Pakistani peacekeepers were injured in the Congo was derided. "That's his job," the representative of a troop contributing country said.

  Recently Inner City Press quoted a "South Asian representative" about how cheap France is being in the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. There was much guessing who had dare say que l'empereur does not have clothes. Inner City Press has asked Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesman a question about this and will be writing soon.

   There was talk of the incoming head of Ban's Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, including some praise for Inner City Press' March 28 scoop the uncredited use of which has reverberated. "It's a tough job," a Western Deputy Permanent Representative said.

  Talk turned to the West Africa trip many of the Ambassadors had been on. "Cote d'Ivoire is so much better," a prominent Permanent Representative told Inner City Press. But what about Duekoue and accountability? There is that.

Of Liberia and the new Swedish Special Representative there, a well placed diplomat said THAT is why Margot Wallstrom is returning to Sweden: to take that place and get back into politics. Hila Jilani's name was bandied as a replacement; the man-bites-dog possibility of a man, Patrick Cammaert, taking over the Sexual Violence in Conflict post was a source of amusement, attributed to UN Women wanting to "dominate that field."

  More philosophical, the question arose of whether the Security Council no longer graduates the countries on its agenda, but just holds on to them for years. The topics arose when Inner City Press was chided for not going on the West Africa trip, as it had gone on trips to Sudan, Chad Congo, Djibouti and also Sri Lanka with Ban Ki-moon.

  But Liberia and Sierra Leone are called peaceful, was the retort. When will they graduate? When's the last time the Council really graduated a country?

  The Permanent Representative dug into the past: Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador. Yeah - and since?

  Elsewhere in the city there were Norwegian diplomats bidding farewell, and good ones, too. But the Council came first: it had to.

  Repeatedly Inner City Press was asked about "that fight against you" headlined by reporters from five big media circulating to all UN correspondents Wednesday morning a screed against the Press.

   One diplomat adopted the name for them, the "P5 plus 1" -- they are Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, Timothy Witcher of Agence France Presse, Flavia Krause-Jackson of Bloomberg, Talal Al-Haj of Al-Arabia and Margaret Besheer of Voice of America, plus UNCA president Giampaolo Pioli.

  "It's almost like the P5," the diplomat continued, "with Agence FRANCE Presse, Reuters for the UK... But then you have two from America, and none from China or Russia."

  Inner City Press has proposed a Russian journalist as one of its three nominees for the "Board of Examination" that the P5+1 are demanding. It is equally ironic that these diplomats, many from countries not known for freedom of the press, expressed more commitment to letting the Press do its work than the big journalists who signed the letter.

  "A lot of UN officials would want you out," a diplomat told Inner City Press, "and also a few missions," naming France. "But other journalists? Maybe they're doing it on behalf of someone else."

   "The way to fight it," Inner City Press was advised, "is just to push for transparency at every turn. Why should it be secret?"

  At least of those speaking Wednesday night the only one on the side of the P5+1 was another journalist, one known to fall asleep in the Dag Hammaskjold Library Auditorium.

  But unlike the diplomats, the sleeper has a vote, and asked for an "off site briefing" by Inner City Press, to rebut an email the P5+1 sent out on UNCA's list without yet allowing any reply or dissent (this right has formally been requested.)

  The question is, why can't Ambassadors be on the Board of Examination? Especially since UNCA's Executive Board has recruited Permanent Representatives as judges for its prizes, including the Perm Rep of Sri Lanka?

   We need your information, another diplomat said, urging Inner City Press to ask for help if needed. But a media shouldn't need the support of a particular member state to be treated fairly at the UN. And as one major Permanent Representative opined Wednesday night, maybe this fight will hurt the indicters more than the defendant. "They look terrible," he said. But it is a waste of time.

  A diplomat who was shown a denunciation the P5+1 / UNCA Executive Board mass e-mailed to all UNCA members without giving Inner City Press the opportunity to use the UNCA e-mail list later said, it's like a purge, for things you published. What'll they do next: remove your image from old photographs with UNCA? Inner City Press has asked for the second time to respond or dissent on the same "Party controlled" e-mail channel; watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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