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Attendance at free press forum hampered by travel restrictions; participants denounce governments' "common strategy" to curb journalists' free expression

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 10 December 2007 WAN press release:

Arab Free Press Forum Protests Against Travel Restrictions

Beirut, Lebanon, 10 December 2007 - Delegates to the Arab Free Press Forum have condemned travel restrictions imposed by authorities in several Arab countries that prevented some speakers and participants from attending the event.

The Forum, organised by the World Association of Newspapers and the An-Nahar newspaper, drew independent journalists from across the Arab world to Beirut, Lebanon, to address the challenges and opportunities facing Arab media. Several journalists who were scheduled to participate were prevented from travelling from Egypt, Tunisia, Qatar, Libya and Syria.

"Passports have not been renewed, previously acceptable travel documents have been disputed at the last moment, and the airlines have prevented passengers from boarding," said a statement from the Forum, which was held on 9 and 10 December.

"It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the authorities in different countries are adopting a common strategy to use and abuse official procedures to obstruct events such as ours," said the group, which called on governments "to respect the right of Arab journalists to meet and speak freely at the public forum of their choice."

The full statement can be found at: http://www.wan-press.org/article15811.html

Conference details can be found at: http://www.wan-press.org/tueni_award/articles.php?id=1097

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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