Syria / France - Sarkozy accused of breaking promises after he decides to celebrate 14 July with press freedom predator



    MONTREAL, June 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage
today at the announcement that Syrian President Bashar el-Assad will be
accompanying President Nicolas Sarkozy on the official podium during the
French national holiday celebrations in Paris on 14 July.
    "Nicolas Sarkozy is breaking one commitment after another," the press
freedom organisation said. "After welcoming Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with
open arms in Paris on 10 December, Human Rights Day, and singing the praises
of the Tunisian regime in April, he is now going to celebrate 14 July, which
is supposed to be in honour of independence and freedom, next to the president
of one of the world's most repressive regimes.
    "How far is Sarkozy ready to go to promote his Mediterranean Union
project? What new concessions will he make to the Libyan leader to get him to
support this project? When he was running for president, Sarkozy put human
rights at the heart of his programme. He said that, with him as president,
talks would be much firmer especially, as regards Russia and China. Today we
are far, very far, from these commitments. President Sarkozy, like others
before him, is pursing a realpolitik at the expense of the values France is
supposed to embody."
    The Mediterranean Union project, which aims to reinforce the already
existing cooperation between the Mediterranean countries and the European
Union, will be officially created during a special summit in Paris on 13 July.
Many Arab counties, including Lybia and Syria, have expressed misgivings about
the project.
    After being received by Sarkozy in Paris last December, Gaddafi said
during an interview for France 2 television that human rights had not been
raised in his talks with the French president. This was denied by the Elysée
Palace.
    During a state visit to Tunisia in April, Sarkozy said, "I do not see why
I should take it upon myself to give lessons" and even went so far as to
congratulate President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for the progress Tunisia had
supposedly made in respect for rights and freedoms.
    Four journalists and three cyber-dissidents are currently detained in
Adra prison in Damascus as a result of a campaign of arrests of human rights
activists. In Tunisia, journalist Slim Boukhdir is currently serving a
one-year prison sentence.
    Assad, Gaddafi and Ben Ali are all on the Reporters Without Borders list
of "Predators of Press Freedom."




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive director,
Reporters without borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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