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Robert Ménard banned from going to Tunisia for information society summit

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard was told today in a letter from the executive secretariat of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that the Tunisian authorities are refusing to let him into the country to attend the summit’s second phase, taking place on 16-18 November in Tunis.

“Banning the head of an organisation that defends free expression from attending a summit about the information society is utterly absurd and unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“We call on the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is organising this summit, to publicly condemn this decision by the Tunisian authorities and to do everything possible to enable Ménard to attend,” the organisation continued, pointing out that it has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

“This entire affairs shows the Tunisian government’s lack of tolerance and open-mindedness,” Reporters Without Borders added. “It is already obvious that this summit will a sham in which free expression will be conspicuous by its absence.”

In the letter received today at Reporters Without Borders headquarters in Paris, WSIS executive director Charles Geiger wrote:

“I must inform you that the ITU was notified of the following by the Tunisian permanent mission in a verbal note on 9 November: ‘An investigation is still under way into complaint No. 7062269/2002 against Mr. Robert Ménard that was filed with the Tunis state prosecutor on 9 July 2002. As a result, Mr. Ménard cannot legally expect to able to enter Tunisia unless summoned by the judicial authority in charge of this case.’ As WSIS executive director, I believe it is my duty to bring this to your attention.”