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United Nations19.06.2006

Reporters Without Borders calls on new Human Rights Council to quickly prove its good will

"The UN human rights council got off on the wrong foot - we have said this before and we say it again today," says Reporters Without Borders, urging the council to do everything possible to quickly abandon the former human rights commission’s deplorable practices.

Reporters Without Borders today called on the new United Nations Human Rights Council to quickly prove its good will, saying it had serious concerns about press freedom in some of the Council’s member-states.

"The Council has got off to a bad start because its members includes Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia and we have grave doubts about how effective it will be,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“But we do not want to be over-pessimistic, so we urge it to quickly show its good intentions, especially its member-states that most respect human rights, from the day it starts work on 19 June.”

"It should immediately promise to make every effort to reject the disgraceful practices of the human rights commission that preceded it and see that any country systematically abusing human rights is criticised, especially those belonging to the Council.

“We also hope the rule suspending members deemed to have ‘flagrantly and systematically’ violated human rights will not remain just a line in an official document but will be suitably applied. How will the UN ensure this is done?” it asked.

China and Cuba are the world’s two biggest prisons for journalists. Censorship is the rule in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia and journalists there who dare to cross the red lines marked out by the regime face harsh punishment.

The Russian government already controls the country’s major news organisations, starting with main TV networks. Violence against journalists and media workers is almost daily in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan. Dozens of journalists in Algeria risk being thrown in prison at any time and the government is stepping up prosecutions of the most critical media. In Azerbaijan, the killers of two journalists murdered last year have not been punished.

The Council will hold its first session from 19 to 30 June in Geneva. Three other sessions will be held this year and early next.