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|Type||Research institute, think tank, non-governmental organization|
|Type||Research institute, think tank, non-governmental organization|
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Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is a French-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information. This organization, which has consultant status at the United Nations., was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008. English speakers also commonly refer to the organization by its French name, Reporters Sans Frontières, or its French acronym, RSF. Its head office is in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris. According to its own mission statement, Reporters Without Borders
RWB was founded in Montpellier, France, in 1985. At first, the association was aimed at promoting alternative journalism, but before the failure of their project, the three founders stumbled on disagreements between themselves. Finally, only Robert Ménard stayed and became its Secretary General. Ménard changed the NGO's aim towards freedom of the press.
Reporters Without Borders states that it draws its inspiration from Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which everyone has "the right to freedom of opinion and expression" and also the right to "seek, receive and impart" information and ideas "regardless of frontiers." This has been re-affirmed by several charters and declarations around the world. In Europe, this right is included in the 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Reporters Without Borders is a founding member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a virtual network of non-governmental organizations that monitors free expression violations worldwide and defends journalists, writers and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
In 2005, Reporters Without Borders shared the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought with Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim and Cuba's Ladies in White movement. In 2009, Reporters Without Borders received the Roland Berger Prize for Human Dignity along with Shirin Ebadi.
Through its correspondents, RWB conducts investigations of press freedom violations by region or topic, such as the Internet: it releases annual reports on each country as well as the Press Freedom Index. If necessary, it will send a team of its own to assess working conditions for journalists in a certain country. Reporters Without Borders’ primary means of direct action are appeals to government authorities through letters or petitions, as well as frequent press releases. Also, it has launched PR campaigns with the pro bono assistance of advertising firms to undermine the image of countries that it considers enemies of freedom of expression, and discourage political support by the international community.
RWB also provides assistance for journalists and media who are either in danger or in difficulty subsisting. They have given money to provide for the needs of exiled or imprisoned journalists and their families and the unsupported families of journalists who have been killed; to enable journalists to leave their home countries if they are in danger there; to repair the effects of vandalism on media outlets; to cover the legal fees of journalists who have been prosecuted for their writings or the medical bills of those who have been physically attacked; and on one occasion, to provide bullet-proof vests.
Over the years, RWB has published several books to raise public awareness of threats to press freedom around the world. One such publication is the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, which was launched in September 2005 and updated in 2008. The handbook provides technical tips on how to become an effective anonymous blogger, and avoid censorship. It includes contributions from well-known blogger-journalists Dan Gillmor and Ethan Zuckerman. RWB also releases materials intended for journalists concerning their safety or information on how to apply for political asylum. Such publications include a handbook for journalists who are working in dangerous areas such as war zones and a set of directions on how to seek asylum in most Western countries
According to the annual accounts, its total budget is of €4,000,000, which is mostly financed by sale of photo-albums (of which the authors freely grant copyright, and which are freely distributed by the Nouvelles Messageries de la Presse Parisienne, or NMPP), as well as extras such as T-shirts, etc.
More than 20% of its funding comes from private groups, such as Sanofi-Aventis (€400,000, 10% of its budget), François Pinault, the Fondation de France, the Open Society Institute of George Soros, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Benetton, or the Center for a Free Cuba (which donated €64,000 in 2002). Furthermore, Saatchi & Saatchi has created various communication campaigns of RWB for free (for instance, concerning censorship in Algeria).
Funding (12% of total in 2007) also comes from governmental organisations. According to RWB president Robert Ménard, the donations from the French government account for 4.8% of RWB's budget; the total amount of governmental aid being 11% of its budget (including money from the French government, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, UNESCO and the Organisation internationale de la francophonie). Daniel Junqua, the vice-president of the French section of RWB (and also vice-president of the NGO Les Amis du Monde diplomatique), states that funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a branch of the U.S. State Department  does not compromise RWB's impartiality. RWB's Chinese website credits support from Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, a quasi-government organization funded by the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Reporters Without Borders books are sold by the French leisure chains and supermarkets Fnac, Carrefour, Casino, Monoprix and Cora, the websites alapage.com, fnac.com and amazon.fr, as well as A2Presse and over 300 bookshops throughout France.
Journalist Salim Lamrani has estimated that RWB would have to sell 170,200 books in 2004 and 188,400 books in 2005 to earn the more than $2 million in the organisation's income statement. In fact, Reporters Without Borders book sales were 230,000 in 2007.
Reporters Without Borders launched the first International Online Free Expression Day on March 12, 2008. Now named World Day Against Cyber Censorship, this annual event rallies support for a single Internet without restrictions and accessible to all.
In conjunction with its World Day Against Cyber Censorship, RWB updates its Enemies of the Internet list which highlights what it considers the countries that are the worst violators of freedom of expression on the Internet. A second list of countries Under Surveillance is released at the same time.
On August 23, 2007, RWB condemned the continuing threats and violence against Philippine radio commentators who report on organized crime and corruption, following a death threat on RGMA Palawan station manager Lily Uy. On December 27, 2007, RWB appealed to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration to forthwith arrest the killers of radio broadcaster Ferdinand Lintuan, 51, the 5th journalist killed in 2007 in the Philippines. As first president of the Davao Association of Sports Journalists he was murdered in Davao City on December 24.
Reporters Without Borders had been protesting the possibility of China hosting the 2008 Olympics since 2001. On March 30, 2008, the day the Olympic torch departed from Olympia, Greece, RWB president Robert Ménard unfurled behind Chinese representative Qi Liu a banner bearing a design resembling the logo of the Olympics, in which the Olympic rings were replaced with handcuffs. On April 7, 2008, the day the torch came to Paris, Ménard climbed with the help of two other activists to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral to hoist a banner with the same Olympic symbol. In one of RWB’s most popular campaigns to date, T-shirts bearing the symbol became so popular that sales for them surpassed 1 million euros.
The annual Netizen Prize recognizes an Internet user, blogger or cyber-dissident who has made a notable contribution to the defense of online freedom of expression.
Reporters Without Borders awards a cyber-dissident prize under various names including: Cyber-Freedom Prize and Cyber-dissident. Winners include:
This prize, in which Le Monde became a partner in 2011, was created in 1992 and is given annually to a journalist (and since 2003 a news media and a cyber-dissident as well) that made, in RWB’s words, “a significant contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom.” Prize recipients:
Media: The Daily News (Zimbabwe) Press freedom defender: Michèle Montas (Haiti)
Media: Zeta (Mexico) Press freedom defender: Liu Xiaobo (China)
Media: Dosh (Russia - Chechnya)
Media: Radio Shabelle (Somalia)
RWB compiles and publishes an annual ranking of countries based upon the organization's assessment of their press freedom records. Small countries, such as Andorra, are excluded from this report.
The report is based on a questionnaire sent to partner organizations of Reporters Without Borders (14 freedom of expression groups in five continents) and its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.
The survey asks questions about direct attacks on journalists and the media as well as other indirect sources of pressure against the free press. RWB is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom, and does not measure the quality of journalism. Due to the nature of the survey's methodology based on individual perceptions, there are often wide contrasts in a country's ranking from year to year.
In an interview with France Culture in 2007, whilst speaking about the case of the kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl, RWB president Robert Ménard discussed the ethics of torture. Menard told France Culture:
Where do we stop? Shall we accept this logic that consists of... since we could do it in some cases, 'you take him hostage, we take him hostage; you mistreat them, we mistreat them; you torture, we torture ...? What is it that justifies... Can we go that far to free someone?
Lucie Morillon, RWB's then-Washington representative, confirmed in an interview on 29 April 2005 that the organization had a contract with US State Department's Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere, Otto Reich, who signed it in his capacity as a trustee for the Center for a Free Cuba, to inform Europeans about the repression of journalists in Cuba. CounterPunch, a critic of RWB, cited Reich's involvement with the group as a source of controversy: when Reich headed the Reagan administration's Office of Public Diplomacy in the 1980s, the body partook in what its officials termed "White Propaganda" – covert dissemination of information to influence domestic opinion regarding US backing for military campaigns against Left-wing governments in Latin America.
RWB has been highly critical of press freedom in Cuba, describing the Cuban government as "totalitarian", and engages in direct campaigning against it. RWB's campaign includes declarations on radio and television, full-page ads in Parisian dailies, posters, leafletting at airports, and an April 2003 occupation of the Cuban tourism office in Paris. A Paris court (tribunal de grande instance) ordered RWB to pay 6,000 Euros to the daughter and heir of Alberto Korda for non-compliance with a court order of 9 July 2003 banning it from using Korda's famous (and copyrighted) photograph of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in a beret, taken at the funeral of La Coubre victims. RWB said it was "relieved" it was not given a harsher sentence. The face had been superimposed by RWB with that of a May 1968 CRS anti-riot police agent, and the postcard handed out at Orly Airport in Paris to tourists boarding on flights for Cuba. Korda's daughter declared to Granma that "Reporters Without Borders should call themselves Reporters Without Principles." On April 24, 2003, RWB organized a demonstration outside the Cuban embassy in Paris.
RWB in turn has been described as an "ultra-reactionary" organization by the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma. Tensions between Cuban authorities and RWB are high, particularly after the imprisonment in 2003 of 75 dissidents (27 journalists) by the Cuban Government, including Raúl Rivero and Óscar Elías Biscet. An article by John Cherian in the Indian magazine Frontline alleged that RWB "is reputed to have strong links with Western intelligence agencies" and "Cuba has accused Robert Meynard [sic] the head of the group, of having CIA links".
RWB has denied that its campaigning on Cuba are related to payments it has received from anti-Castro organisations. In 2004, it received $50,000 from the Miami based exile group, the Center for a Free Cuba, which was personally signed by the US State Department's Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere, Otto Reich. RWB has also received extensive funding from other institutions long critical of Fidel Castro's government, including the International Republican Institute.
Journalist Salim Lamrani has accused Reporters Without Borders with making unsupported and contradictory statements regarding Internet connectivity in Cuba.
In 2004, Reporters Without Borders released an annual report on Haiti, saying that a "climate of terror" existed in which attacks and threats persisted against those journalists who were critical of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
An August 2006 article in CounterPunch accused RWB of ignoring similar attacks on journalists under the Latortue government in 2005 and 2006, including that of Pacifica Radio reporter Kevin Pina. Pina himself said:
It was clear early on that RWB and Robert Menard were not acting as objective guardians of freedom of the press in Haiti but rather as central actors in what can only be described as a disinformation campaign against Aristide's government ... They provide false information and skewed reports to build internal opposition to governments seen as uncontrollable and unpalatable to Washington while softening the ground for their eventual removal by providing justification under the pretext of attacks on the freedom of the press.
Le Monde diplomatique has criticized RWB's attitude towards Hugo Chávez's government in Venezuela, in particular during the 2002 coup attempt. In a right of reply, Robert Ménard declared that RWB had also condemned the Venezuela media's support of the coup attempt. RWB has also been criticized for supporting Globovision's version of events about its false reporting in relation to a 2009 earthquake, claiming Globovision was "being hounded by the government and the administration".
According to Observatoire de l'Action Humanitaire (Centre for Humanitarian Action), ever since Robert Ménard was replaced by Jean-François Julliard in September 2008, RWB has been concerned with violations of press freedom not only in third-world dictatorships but also in developed countries like France. Through widening its geographical scope, RWB aims at countering accusations of overly focusing on left-wing regimes unfriendly to the US.
UNESCO, who initially had granted patronage to the first International Online Free Expression Day to be held on March 12, 2008, withdrew its patronage on the day of the event giving as reasons that RWB "published material concerning a number of UNESCO's Member States, which UNESCO had not been informed of and could not endorse" and that "UNESCO's logo was placed in such a way as to indicate the Organization's support of the information presented." RWB responded in a press release that “UNESCO has withdrawn its support to the promotion of this campaign because several of the Nations which are part of the list of Internet Enemies published by the nongovernmental organization have directly put pressure to achieve it.”
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