"Reporters Without Borders" on Thursday said it was "outraged" after the Tunisian authorities turned back its Secretary General Robert Ménard on his arrival in Tunis to attend the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Tunisian police officers physically prevented Ménard from leaving an Air France plane after it touched down in Tunis on Thursday. One officer told the head of the worldwide press freedom organisation that he had no right to get off the plane since he did not have accreditation for the WSIS.
Reporters Without Borders said, “We are also staggered by the complicity of the organisers of the World Summit on the Information Society and to some extent, France, which did nothing to ensure his attendance at this international summit.
“From being a masquerade, the WSIS has turned into a scandal,” the organisation added.
As Ménard was prevented from leaving the plane, another police officer filmed the incident without permission from the Air France crew.
Ménard told police that it was untrue he did not have accreditation, his UN accreditation number was 10 30 191. He received no further explanation from police officers at the door of the plane and on the tarmac. The plane’s captain told him to stay on board and issued him with a return ticket on the same aircraft.
No WSIS organiser nor any representative of the French embassy had been present to receive him in Tunis. Executive director of the WSIS, Charles Geiger, had said in a statement on Wednesday that Robert Ménard was not welcome at the summit, although his office had given him accreditation. He referred to a claim made by the Tunisian authorities that an official complaint had been laid against Ménard in Tunisia.
Earlier this year, "Reporters Without Borders" criticized the state of the Tunisian press, saying "they are official media, docile and subservient to the government. It is a cruel irony that Tunisia will host the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in November 2005."