Wednesday, 11 June 2008 20:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press
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France: Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the announcement that Syrian President Bashar el-Assad will be accompanying President Nicolas Sarkozy on the official podium during the French national holiday celebrations in Paris on 14 July.

"Nicolas Sarkozy is breaking one commitment after another," the press freedom organisation said. "After welcoming Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with open arms in Paris on 10 December, Human Rights Day, and singing the praises of the Tunisian regime in April, he is now going to celebrate 14 July, which is supposed to be in honour of independence and freedom, next to the president of one of the world's most repressive regimes.


"How far is Sarkozy ready to go to promote his Mediterranean Union project? What new concessions will he make to the Libyan leader to get him to support this project? When he was running for president, Sarkozy put human rights at the heart of his programme. He said that, with him as president, talks would be much firmer especially, as regards Russia and China. Today we are far, very far, from these commitments. President Sarkozy, like others before him, is pursing a realpolitik at the expense of the values France is
supposed to embody."

The Mediterranean Union project, which aims to reinforce the already existing cooperation between the Mediterranean countries and the European Union, will be officially created during a special summit in Paris on 13 July. Many Arab counties, including Lybia and Syria, have expressed misgivings about the project.

 


After being received by Sarkozy in Paris last December, Gaddafi said during an interview for France 2 television that human rights had not been raised in his talks with the French president. This was denied by the Elysee Palace.

During a state visit to Tunisia in April, Sarkozy said, "I do not see why I should take it upon myself to give lessons" and even went so far as to congratulate President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for the progress Tunisia had supposedly made in respect for rights and freedoms.

Four journalists and three cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Adra prison in Damascus as a result of a campaign of arrests of human rights activists. In Tunisia, journalist Slim Boukhdir is currently serving a one-year prison sentence.

Assad, Gaddafi and Ben Ali are all on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Predators of Press Freedom."

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia



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