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Robert Ménard stands down as Reporters Without Borders secretary-general ; Head of research, Jean-François Julliard, takes over

Robert Ménard is standing down as Reporters Without Borders secretary-general. He announced his decision at a meeting of the organisation’s International Council today in Paris.

“I am stepping down from this post but I will of course continue to a member of Reporters Without Borders,” Ménard said. “I have dedicated 23 years to this organisation and I will continue to participate in its activities. But in a different way. I cannot imagine a life that does not a involve a commitment to serving the values of democracy, freedoms and human rights, which in my view gives meaning to our lives.

“I have taken this decision at a time when everything is going well for Reporters Without Borders. Our organisation is better known now internationally than ever before. Its staff, its high profile and its solid financial footing guarantee its independence and effectiveness. This is being demonstrated day after day.

“I now want to ensure a successful succession. Jean-François Julliard, who has just been elected, is taking over as secretary-general. He has been working at my side in Reporters Without Borders for more than 10 years. He is entirely familiar with its workings, its methods and its philosophy. He will contribute his enthusiasm, that of a generation of activists versed in globalization and the Internet. I want only one thing - for him to turn Reporters Without Borders into an organisation that is even more effective at defending journalists who are mistreated, tortured and imprisoned and at defending freedom of the press, without which there is no freedom at all.

“My thoughts go out to those for whom we have fought, to the families that have been scarred for ever by a death or a disappearance. We cannot abandon this struggle, neither today nor tomorrow. This week’s release of Win Tin, who had been imprisoned in Burma for 19 years, proves we are right. Let us go forward.”

Ménard was elected in March 2006 for another five-year term as secretary-general by the representatives of the Reporters Without Borders sections, who have now appointed him as the organisation’s honorary president.

Ménard became a journalist at the end of the 1970s after studying philosophy at university. He worked initially for the print media and then in radio. With three other journalists - Emilien Jubineau, Rémi Loury and Jacques Molénat - he founded Reporters Without Borders in 1985 in Montpellier. He has been its secretary-general since 1990. He received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize on behalf of Reporters Without Borders in 2005.

A book by Ménard, entitled “Freedoms and other unnecessary complications,” is to be published by Editions Robert Laffont on 9 October. About the campaign for a boycott of the Olympic Games opening ceremony and the secret negotiations surrounding the games, it is also a scathing essay on the press, human rights and the cowardice of the political class.

Aged 55, Ménard is married to Emmanuelle Duverger and has two children (Michel, 32, and Clara, 6).

After studying cinema, broadcasting and journalism, Julliard joined Reporters Without Borders in 1998. He became head of its Africa desk and then, in 2004, head of research. “There are many pressing matters to attend to - Afghanistan, Moussa Kaka imprisoned in Niger and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Julliard said. “And our priority will be to become even more effective.” Aged 35, Julliard is married and has two children.

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