Reporter Sans Frontiers: Seven-Year-Old French Organization Works to Ensure Fair Treatment of Journalists throughout the World

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Seven-year-old French organization works to ensure fair treatment of journalists throughout the world

"IF THE TRUTH isn't free, freedom isn't truth," said a French institution, poet Jacques Prevert.

Another French institution, Reporter sans Frontiers (Reporters without Frontiers), is trying to ensure that if not the truth, at least the news is free.

The news needs all the help it can get.

For the first time, Europe has become the most deadly arena in the world for journalists trying to do their jobs, according to a 1993 report by the RSE

Nicole Du Roy, the new president of the seven-year-old association, put it plainly, "In Vietnam, 60 journalists died in 20 years of fighting. In just two years, over 30 journalists have been killed in the ex-Yugoslavia."

Gen. Lewis McKenzie, former Canadian commander of U.N. forces in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, has noted, "The people most exposed to shots are journalists."

And Milan Panic, former prime minister of Yugoslavia, referring to Serbian snipers, said, "... every time they kill a journalist, they are paid $500."

Du Roy added, "People really don't want journalists doing their job." And not only in the Balkans.

In Turkey, at least 12 journalists were killed in 1992. More than 100 journalists were sent to prison in that country during the same year, with 10 still incarcerated. In China, 30 journalists are imprisoned.

One of the RSF's functions is to ensure that every time journalists are put on trial, they are defended properly.

"Every time there is a trial against a journalist anywhere in the world and if the authorities will allow it, we send out a lawyer," Du Roy said. "We recently sent one to represent the Algerian newspaper El Watan."

In that case, the paper's editor and five journalists were put in jail because they reported an attack on an isolated police station. The newspaper had its right to publish suspended.

"We have an excellent legal team who master perfectly international press law, and they are volunteers," Du Roy said.

When the legal route fails, the group tries to "sponsor" journalists. A magazine or television or radio station agrees to do stories about the plight of an imprisoned journalist as often as possible. …