Saturday, January 24, 2009

UN Human Rights meeting expels journalist

Last Thursday, Caroline Fourest and her cameraman Xavier Liberman were thrown out of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. They had been filming a programme for the (excellent*) Franco-German TV channel Arte.

For some reason, on her blog and in the original post at Rue89 this was headlined: "Caroline Fourest et Arte censurés par la Russie". Rue89 later amended this to "ONU: Caroline Fourest et Arte censurés par un diplomate russe". "Censored by Russia" was changed to "censored by a Russian diplomat".

Tribune des droits humains has more detail:

le président de la réunion, le diplomate russe Yuri Boychenko, leur a donné l’ordre de stopper le tournage à la demande de deux groupes régionaux. Selon des sources diplomatiques présentes dans la salle, il s’agirait des groupes africain et asiatique.
That is, the chairman of the meeting, Russian diplomat Yuri Boychenko, ordered them to stop filming at the request of two regional groups. According to diplomats who had been in the meeting, these groups were from Africa and Asia. The report continues:
L’Agence France Presse (AFP) mentionne, elle, plus particulièrement l’Organisation de la conférence islamique (OCI) dont les membres font partie à la fois du groupe asiatique et africain.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has members from Africa and Asia.

Ms Fourest and her colleagues have been, in my opinion, a little too circumspect. They were not censored by Russia, or by a Russian diplomat. The broad hint from AFP is that they were censored by a grouping of Islamic states. In Europe.

That is, it seems possible that a European journalist, working in Europe for a highly reputable European media organisation, was censored by a grouping of Islamic states.

A clue as to why the request was made that these journalists were expelled from the meeting is also given:
L’interdiction est tombée, alors que les débats devenaient très vifs sur la question de la liberté d’expression et de la diffamation des religion
They were discussing freedom of expression and the defamation of religions.

From the fact that they banned even journalistic coverage of their discussion, their attitude to freedom of expression can be guessed at.

UPDATE: Caroline Fourest has given more detail today (25th Jan). Pakistan, the current chair of the OIC (OCI in French), seems not to have been part of the request that she be prevented from filming. It seems to have been more a group of African countries led by Nigeria. She was later allowed to resume her coverage of the meeting.

The "lively" discussion that led to the ban, as well as dealing with defamation of religions and freedom of expression, also touched on the subject of holocaust denial.

Fourest is waiting for a complete list of the countries that made this request. It still seems to be the case that they were members of the OIC, but that this was not a unanimous request from members of that organisation.

*Better than the best bits of BBC2 in the 1970s.

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