A coalition of international press freedom organisations has asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy not to underestimate human rights violations in Tunisia as he seeks to create a Union for the Mediterranean at a summit meeting in Paris on Sunday, 13 July.
The World Association of Newspapers and 17 press freedom organisation wrote to Mr Sarkozy on Thursday to express their “extreme concern” over “the Tunisian authorities’ tendency to resort to censorship, intimidation and violence.”
“It seems essential that the French government does not underestimate the seriousness of the human rights violations in Tunisia,” said the members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange’s Tunisia Monitoring Group, in the letter to Mr Sarkozy, who will preside over a meeting in Paris on Sunday to establish the Union for the Mediterranean.
“It is furthermore essential that France adopts and promotes a policy in accordance with the values of the Republic, by inviting the Tunisian authorities to respect their international human rights obligations, specifically those in favour of freedom of expression and the press.”
Members of the Tunisia Monitoring Group include: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Egypt); ARTICLE 19 (United Kingdom); Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; Cartoonists Rights Network International (United States); Egyptian Organization for Human Rights; Index on Censorship (United Kingdom); International Federation of Journalists; International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions; International Press Institute; International Publishers’ Association; Journaliste en danger (Democratic Republic of Congo); Maharat Foundation (Lebanon); Media Institute of Southern Africa; Norwegian PEN; World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters; World Association of Newspapers; World Press Freedom Committee; and the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN.
The full letter said:
“We are writing to you on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, as well as on behalf of the 18 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), to share with you our extreme concern over the serious violations of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Tunisia, and the Tunisian authorities’ tendency to resort to censorship, intimidation and violence.
“Now that France has assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union until 31 December and you will preside over the Paris Summit on 13 July to establish the Union for the Mediterranean, it seems essential that the French government does not underestimate the seriousness of the human rights violations in Tunisia. It is furthermore essential that France adopts and promotes a policy in accordance with the values of the Republic, by inviting the Tunisian authorities to respect their international human rights obligations, specifically those in favour of freedom of expression and the press.
“WAN and the TMG have documented the history of abuses of freedom of expression in Tunisia since 2003. We will be happy to provide a dossier of information and a personal briefing to you or your advisers if you so require.”
The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.
Source : World Association of Newspapers