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REGIONS:

RSF barred from participating in World Summit on the Information Society

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 15 September 2003 RSF press release:

WORLD SUMMIT ON THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

UN human rights farce continues

Reporters Without Borders, an international human rights organisation, protested today against a ban on its participation in the World Summit on the Information Society next December in Geneva. Calling the ban "grotesque and absurd," Reporters Without Borders noted that it followed the organisation's suspension for a year from the UN Commission on Human Rights.

"Excluding a press freedom organisation from the WSIS is a serious step fraught with consequences," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said after the organisation was notified of the ban by WSIS executive director Pierre Gagné.

"How can the UN still expect to maintain the least credibility in light of this kind of decision, which contravenes the most basic principles of freedom of expression?" Ménard added.

At the request of regimes that are the worst press freedom violators, Reporters Without Borders was suspended from the UN Commission on Human Rights after it energetically protested the choice of a Libyan representative to be the commission's chairperson.

The coming WSIS is a key event for freedom of expression. Several human rights organisations have already voiced fears about the draft declaration that could be adopted by UN member states in December. Dictatorships and other repressive regimes intend to use this summit to subject information on the Internet to measures of control and censorship. The documents being drafted would, in particular, make online press freedom dependent on "each country's legislation."

Against this backdrop, banning a press freedom organisation from attending the WSIS is likely to alarm those who defend human rights and freedom of expression. The UN human rights farce continues.

This release is also available in French and Spanish on the Reporters Without Borders website: www.rsf.org

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