Journalist group condemns UN's RWB suspension

The year-long suspension of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has been condemned by the International Federation of Journalists.

It claims the suspension provides “worrying evidence of a major crisis for press freedom at world level”.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White said: “It looks increasingly as though the UN human rights agenda is being hijacked by governments dedicated to censorship and intolerance of dissent.”

RWB was suspended after it staged a demonstration against the decision to let Libya chair the commission because of its poor record on supporting human rights and press freedom.

The group’s consultative status with the commission was suspended on 24 July for one year on a split vote after a request by Libya and Cuba.

The IFJ has written to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello about the suspension.

“We may not agree with the style of protest,” said White, “but this suspension is wholly unjustified. The fact that behind it are regimes with an appalling record on human rights and much to hide on free expression severely damages the credibility of the UN human rights commission.”

Among those voting in favour of RWB’s suspension were China, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, Cuba and Zimbabwe where, the IFJ points out, in all six countries journalists have been jailed, censored or violently attacked.

“It is a tragic sign of the times that freedom to dissent which many of these countries have outlawed at national level, is now being curtailed on a global level,” said White.

By Jon Slattery

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