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EU-Asia summits 7 September 2006

Press freedom sidelined in EU-China and ASEM 6 debates

Reporters Without Borders voiced disappointment that the EU, and particularly the Finnish presidency, failed to include human rights and particularly press freedom on the agendas for the EU-China Summit on 9 September and ASEM 6 on 10-11 of the same month. The two summits will gather 38 heads of state and government in Helsinki.

"We are equally shocked that the Burmese junta will be an official participant at the ASEM 6 summit in violation of the European sanctions policy against Burma,” the press freedom organisation added.

“The Rangoon regime continues an all-out crackdown and the only thing the EU can find to do is to give them international legitimacy by inviting them. China, Vietnam and Laos are also taking part without it being clearly known if the state of freedom of expression will be raised. Freedom of the press is one of the challenges of globalisation and sustainable development will not be possible otherwise. So why avoid the subject?” Reporters Without Borders questioned.

At least 95 journalists and Internet-users are currently imprisoned in ASEM countries, particularly seven Burmese journalists and 50 Chinese Internet-users and cyberdissidents. Asia is by the far the world’s biggest prison for journalists.

Despite an EU ban on visas for officials of the Burmese military junta, the Finnish government will welcome Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win. On 6 September, the Finnish foreign ministry however condemned Burma’s human rights record.

“The Burmese question is due to be raised again during the summit as it was in Hanoi at the ASEM 5 summit, but without doing anything to change the policy of the Burmese generals. Once again the EU backs away from obtaining anything in return from its Asian partners,” Reporters Without Borders added.

Despite lack of progress on human rights, China, whose prime minister Wen Jiabao will be in Helsinki, is trying to pressurise the EU into lifting an arms embargo adopted after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Conditional on the lifting of the embargo is that the Beijing government revises its judgement on the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, always termed counter-revolutionary incidents, and stops harassing and jailing people, particularly journalists, who protect the memory of the Tiananmen victims. Reporters Without Borders has been a member of the European Coalition against the lifting of the arms embargo to China since 2004.


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