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Afghanistan - France 22 September 2008

French parliamentarians asked to condition France’s military involvement on lasting respect for free expression

Reporters Without Borders has written to the leaders of all the political groups in the French national assembly and to the parliamentary defence committee’s two rapporteurs, Pierre Lellouche and François Lamy, asking them to make sure during today’s debate on the presence of French troops in Afghanistan that “France’s involvement also aims to ensure lasting respect by the Afghan authorities for press freedom and human rights.”

The letter says “there is no doubt that the Taliban pose a major threat to press freedom in Afghanistan” and refers to their abuses both before and since the fall of their regime in November 2001. It also points out that Reporters Without Borders issued a report in 2000 entitled “Afghanistan: a country without news or pictures,” criticising the obscurantism of Mullah Omar’s regime, and that the press freedom organisation has been helping independent Afghan media since 2001.

But, the letter continues, “the Taliban unfortunately do not have a monopoly of free speech violations.” Judges, prosecutors, politicians, religious leaders and even some of President Hamid Karzai’s close supporters also target journalists, often violently, the letter says. It quotes Saad Mohseni, the head of privately-owned Tolo TV, as saying: “The state has lost its honour by proving unable to protect free expression. Press owner Najiba Ayubi is quoted as saying: “There will be no hope for journalists as long as these men hostile to free expression have weapons and the government’s support.”

Reporters Without Borders urges the national assembly to issue an appeal for the release of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young journalist who was sentenced to death by a court in Mazar-i-Sharif. His death sentence and the torture he underwent at the hands of members of the security services have reinforced the impression that the government in Kabul is unable to adhere to international human rights standards.

Finally, the letter asks the parliamentarians to remind the government that “the French army’s efforts must at least be rewarded by a clear undertaking by the Afghan authorities to defend freedom of expression.”

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in the annual report
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