Reporters Without Borders calls for suspension of Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Tunisia and Vietnam
Press freedom is still under siege in 20 of the 55 countries attending this week’s ninth Summit of French-Speaking States - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Comoro Islands, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Laos, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia and Vietnam.
Things have got worse in these countries since the last summit in Moncton (Canada) in September 1999. In that time, three journalists have been killed, 264 arrested and 183 physically attacked, as well as 223 media outlets censored, banned or shut down by the authorities. On 1 October this year, 14 journalists were imprisoned in eight of the countries.
This is why Reporters Without Borders is calling for sanctions against the countries mainly responsible. In line with the November 2000 Bamako Declaration providing for sanctions "in the event of the breakdown of democracy or large-scale violations of democracy," it calls for suspending from membership the four countries that have most harshly cracked down on press freedom - Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Tunisia and Vietnam.
If the Beirut summit takes no action, it will be signalling that the Bamako Declaration is little more than fine words to keep the international community happy. The French-speaking world will then have lost all credibility where human rights and press freedom are concerned. The people of these countries will also know they no longer have anything to hope for from an organisation that is passive and in league with heads of state whose daily actions violate press freedom and human rights in general.