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President meets with RSF delegation in official visit to Paris

(RSF/IFEX) – 28 October 2009 - Reporters Without Borders has been given an assurance by Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, elected on 4 August 2009, that freedom of the press will be one of his priorities.

The head of state, on an official visit to Paris yesterday, met a delegation from the worldwide press freedom organisation and in a cordial meeting said he was determined to work to improve the state of press freedom in his country.

"My aim is to encourage press freedom and freedom of expression for all Mauritanians. Despite all the insults I have had to bear, I never on principle attack the press in whatever way. I think that public figures who do not accept this principle should change their profession," the president told the delegation.

"I have decided to put an end to the system of state advertising which was encouraging corruption. The state currently funds 80% of printing of the privately-owned press through the national printing house. It is a major effort and I think it should first help newspapers that publish regularly," the head of state added.

The discussion with Abdel Aziz on the current state of the country's media and progress made since 2005 came one week after the publication of Reporters Without Borders' latest world press freedom index, in which Mauritania was ranked 100th out of 175 countries, improving its position by five places compared to 2008.

The president undertook to examine all the issues raised by Reporters Without Borders, including:

- The urgent need to promulgate the application order for the broadcast law, which will support the liberalisation of the airwaves;

- The need to stabilise the media sector;

- The benefit to be gained by filling the legal void that currently exists regarding the online press. RSF raised the case of Hanevy Ould Dehah, the editor of the website Taqadoumy, who has been in custody since 18 June 2009 and who was sentenced to six months in prison.

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