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At End of Togo's Month, Talk of CERD & Big Media Sleaze, P5 & Delegates' Lounge

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 30 -- When Togo held its end of Security Council presidency reception Thursday at the UN, Ambassador Kodjo Menan's gratefully short speech did not look back at the month, as the morning's Wrap-Up session did, but rather to a UN election on Monday.

  Ms. Hohoueto, interviewed later by Inner City Press, is running for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. There are 16 candidates, minus Madagascar, for nine seats, and the election is June 3. This is how the UN works.

  This too is how the UN works: multiple diplomats approached Inner City Press to say they are outraged at the idea of a press table in front of the Security Council being eliminated. One African Permanent Representative demanded, Who is behind this?

  A Western Permanent Representative explained, there are some in the UN press corps who have said they do not want it. (They control the UN Correspondents Association Executive Committee.) "We do not agree, but we need them."

  How can it be, that ostensible journalists would be lobbying for less rather than more access?

  It's that the media is a business. These Gulf and Western correspondents benefit from less access: they get spoon-fed scoops by "their" missions, and do not want independent media being able to access the range of UN and elected Security Council members states by means of a work table at the stakeout.

  But what should the UN Secretariat want -- access for the range of journalists, or a monopoly of Gulf and Western media? This has become the question, raised by the Free UN Coalition for Access.

  The head of the UN Department of Public Information, to whom this has been raised, faces a moment of truth: is he in favor of access? The arguments have been made, and the verdict is awaited. He has asked for time and it has been granted. But time is running short. The issue is not complicated: return to how things were, or reduce access.

  Invited to the Togo reception in the "Delegates Dining Room," Inner City Press went up to the DDR on the fourth floor, now open. But there it was corporation, JP Morgan, Bill and Melinda Gates et al. Toto was in the cafeteria, albeit with smoked salmon by the river, spicy Togolese meats in the back.

Among Permanent Five members of the Council, Russia's Vitaly Churkin, China's Li Baodong and the UK's Mark Lyall Grant were in attendance.

  UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous, we kid you not, walked around unnoticed for a while, before alighting on Kenya's Permanent Representative. Did they talk about the racism of the ICC? Or how that court refuses to prosecute those who kill perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo?

  Somalia's Permanent Representative as it happens is a long time UN system employees, with the World Health Organization all over Africa and finally in Eritrea. It is a UN story, as is that of an 80 year old retiree who remembers a UN barbershop, cut rate roast beef and the Delegates' Lounge.

  When will that re-open, after so much spending by member states? And who would dare turn it dry, even on Friday night? Is that Joe Torsella? Or someone joyless? Watch this site.

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