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Publishing groups call on France to pressure Tunisia on press freedom

(WAN-IFRA/IFEX) - 27 January 2010 - The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the International Publishers Association (IPA) have called on the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Kouchner, to monitor press freedom violations in Tunisia and urge authorities in the North African country to respect their international commitment to freedom of expression.

WAN-IFRA, which represents the world's newspapers and news publishers, and the IPA, the global organisation of book and journal publishers, met last week with Fabrice Mauries, the Advisor for North Africa and the Middle East to Mr Kouchner, to discuss France's policy regarding violations to the right to freedom of expression in Tunisia. The delegation addressed the systematic repression of free speech in the country and the violence used against journalists and human rights advocates.

The delegation, joined by François Gèze, CEO of Editions La Découverte, asked the Ministry to ensure that a representative from the French Embassy to Tunisia would observe the court hearings of independent journalists Taoufik Ben Brik on 30 January and Zouhayr Makhlouf on 3 February, both of whom were sentenced to prison in late 2009. They raised other cases, including those of Fahem Boukadous, Naziha Rejiba, Sihem Bensedrine, Slim Boukhdhir and Slim Bagga.

The delegation also asked that France and the European Union publicly urge the Tunisian authorities to respect their human rights obligations under the EU-Tunisia Association Agreement (article 2), which include freedom of expression.

WAN-IFRA and IPA, members of the Tunisian Monitoring Group of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), are calling on France and the EU to adopt a firmer stand in favour of freedom of expression in Tunisia.

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