Reporters Without Borders

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Reporters Without Borders, or RWB (French: Reporters sans frontières, Spanish: Reporteros Sin Fronteras, or RSF, German: Reporter ohne Grenzen or ROG, Italian: Reporter senza frontiere, Persian: گزارشگران بدون مرز‎, Arabic: مراسلون بلا حدود‎, simplified Chinese: 无国界记者; traditional Chinese: 無國界記者; pinyin: Wú Guójiè Jìzhě[1]) is a Paris-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985 by current Secretary General Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman (then president of Doctors Without Borders) and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud.[2]

Press freedom

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.[2] Finally, only Robert Ménard stayed and became its Secretary General. Ménard changed the NGO's aim towards freedom of press.[2]

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 organisations 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.[3]

Over the years, RWB has published several books to raise public awareness of threats to press freedom around the world. A recent publication is the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents,[4] which was launched in September 2005. The handbook provides technical tips on how to blog anonymously and avoid censorship. It includes contributions from well-known blogger-journalists Dan Gillmor, Jay Rosen and Ethan Zuckerman.

Worldwide Press Freedom Index

2007 press freedom rankings

RWB compiles and publishes an annual ranking of countries based upon the organization's assessment of their press freedom records. Small countries, such as Malta and Andorra, are excluded from this report. The 2007 list was published on 16 October 2007.

The report is based on a questionnaire sent to partner organisations 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.[5]

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.


According to RWB, its total budget is of €4,000,000, 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, NMPP [6]), as well as extras such as T-shirts, etc [6].

More than 20% of its funding comes from private groups, such as Sanofi-Aventis (€400,000, 10% of its budget [6]), François Pinault, the Fondation de France, the Open Society Institute of George Soros, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Benetton, or the anti-Castrist Center for a Free Cuba (which gives it €64,000).[7][6]. Furthermore, Saatchi & Saatchi has realized various communication campaigns of RWB for free (for instance, concerning censorship in Algeria[8]).

Some of its funding (19% of total) comes from North American and European governmental organisations, among them the American National Endowment for Democracy (NED).[9][10] 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 OSCE, UNESCO and the Organisation internationale de la francophonie).[11]

Both the NED and the Centre for a Free Cuba are funded by the US Government. However, Daniel Junqua, the vice-president of the French section of RWB (and also vice-president of the NGO Les Amis du Monde diplomatique), claims that the NED's funding, which reachs an amount of €35,000 [6], does not compromise RWB's impartiality.[11]

RSF's Chinese website credits support from Taiwan Foundation for Democracy,[12] a quasi-government organization funded by the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[13]

The NGO, which has 25 full-time employees, pays its director Ménard (as well as a marketing expert, formerly at Price Waterhouse) around €5,000 per month [6].

Controversy and campaigns

Robert Ménard on torture

In an interview with France Culture, whilst speaking about the case of the kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl, RWB president Robert Ménard discussed the use of torture.[14] Menard told France Culture:

Relationship with Otto Reich

Lucie Morillon, RWB's Washington representative, confirmed in an interview on 29 April 2005 that the organization has 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.[16]

The Otto Reich link has been controversial: 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.[17] An investigation into the Office’s activities by the US Comptroller-General found that under Otto Reich it was engaged in "prohibited, covert propaganda activities ... beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities".[18]

In 2002, Reich was appointed to the visiting board of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,[19] which was formerly known as the School for the Americas, and described in 2004 by the LA Weekly as a “torture-teaching institution”.[20] According to Amnesty International, the School in the past has produced training manuals which advocated torture, blackmail, beatings and executions.[21]

Reacting to Otto Reich’s appointment to the visiting board, School of the America’s Watch said, “Reich on a board charged with monitoring the human rights integrity of an institution as notorious as this one is like the fox guarding the henhouse. His appointment to this position exposes the rubber-stamp character and hypocritical function of such a board…The underlying objective of both the school and Mr. Reich is to continue to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by training and arming Latin American militaries.”[22]

According to critics, Reich has a “Stalinist-type contempt for press freedom”.[23] In the 1980s it is alleged that he conducted sex smears against journalists critical of the Contra rebel group in Nicaragua.[23] Reich himself has joked about his attitude to criticism - in 2002 in mock indignation he joked that opponents had "said that I can't make rational decisions because of my ideology. Well, they are not saying that anymore, because I had them all arrested this morning."[24]

Under the contract signed with Reich, Reporters Without Borders received $50,000 in 2004 from the Center for Free Cuba.[25]


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 Oscar Elías Biscet. RWB describes the Cuban regime as "totalitarian" and engages in direct campaigning against Castro's regime.[26] RWB has been described as an "ultra-reactionary" organization by the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma.[26]

Lucie Morillon, RWB's Washington representative, confirmed in an interview on 29 April, 2005 that the organization receives money from the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba ($50,000 in 2004), and that a contract with the US State Department's Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere, Otto Reich, requires them to inform Europeans about repression against journalists in Cuba. However, the organisation has denied that its campaigning on the issue of Cuba—in 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—were related to the payments.[27] 1.3% of total funding came from this source.[28]

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.[26][29] The face had been superimposed by RSF 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."[30] Headed by Robert Ménard, RWB also burst into the Cuban Tourism Office in Paris on 4 April, 2003, obstructing the running of the office for nearly four hours.[31][32] On April 24, 2003, RWB organized a demonstration outside the Cuban embassy in Parisl..[31]l

RWB claims it has been the target of hostility from the Cuban authorities since the arrest of 75 dissidents in March 2003. Cuba’s representatives have called for the withdrawal of its consultative status with the United Nations. RWB lost its UN approved NGO status for one year in July 2003 at the request of Cuba and Libya, as a result of protests against Libya receiving the chairmanship of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, during the committee's opening session.[33]

Western intelligence agencies

According to an article published in the Frontline, Reporters Without Borders is reputed for having strong ties with the intelligence agencies of the western countries.[34] The article also stated that Cuba accused Robert Meynard, the head of RWB, of having links with the CIA.[34] The organization has denied the allegation made by Cuba.[35]


The online newsletter CounterPunch criticised RWB's reporting of press freedom in Haiti during and after Jean-Bertrand Aristide's presidency, arguing that it was biased.[36]


Le Monde diplomatique has criticized RWB's attitude towards Hugo Chávez's government in Venezuela, in particular during the 2002 coup attempt.[37] In a right of reply, Robert Ménard declared that RWB had also condemned the support of Venezuela media to the coup attempt.[11]


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.[38] On December 27, 2007, RSF 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.[39]

Gaza Strip

On January 24 RWB condemned "shots that were fired at an Israeli TV reporter and a cameraman on 15 January while in a kibbutz adjoining the border with the Gaza Strip, although they were clearly identifiable as journalists." [2] The television crew that came under attack filmed the incident.[40]

International Online Free Expression Day

Reporters Without Borders launched the first International Online Free Expression Day on March 12, 2008.[41] UNESCO, who initially had granted patronage to that event, withdrew its patronage on March 12 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."[42][43]

Worldwide Press Freedom Index Ranking

Template:Reporters Without Borders/Worldwide press freedom index


  1. ^ This is the official Chinese name on the official web site: Official Chinese Language website of RSF, accessed April 4, 2008
  2. ^ a b c Reporters sans frontières, RFO, 6 November 2006 (in French)
  3. ^ European Parliament. Ladies, Ibrahim and Reporters joint Sakharov prize winners
  4. ^ Reporters sans frontières - Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
  5. ^ Reporters Without Borders. How the index was compiled
  6. ^ a b c d e f Marie-Christine Tabet, Révélations sur le financement de RSF, Le Figaro, 21 April 2008 (in French)
  7. ^ reporters sans frontières : liberté de la presse, contre la censure, information libre, défense des libertés
  8. ^ Atteintes à la liberté de la presse en Algérie, El Watan, 11 June 2005 (in French)
  9. ^ Income and expenditure
  10. ^ Z Magazine. The Reporters Without Borders Fraud
  11. ^ a b c Daniel Junqua, Reporters sans frontières, Le Monde diplomatique, August 2007 (in French)
  12. ^ rsf-chinese about page, paragraph 14
  13. ^ TFD about page, paragraph 3
  14. ^ Jean-Noël Darde, Quand Robert Ménard, de RSF, légitime la torture, Rue 89, 26 August 2007 (in French)
  15. ^ [1] Reporters without Borders, follows in Washington’s steps and legitimizes torture, Global Research, September 21, 2007
  16. ^ Reporters Without Borders Unmasked, Counterpunch, 17 May 2005
  17. ^ The Return of Otto Reich, FAIR, 8 June 2001
  18. ^ Friends of Terrorism, The Guardian, 8 February 2002
  19. ^ The Case for closing the School of the Americas, Bill Quigley, Brigham Young University, 2005
  20. ^ Teaching Torture, LA Weekly, 22 July 2004
  21. ^ Amnesty International USA's Executive Director Dr. William F. Schulz on “Ask Amnesty”, Amnesty International USA
  22. ^ School of the Americas Watch
  23. ^ a b Otto Reich About to Slip into State Department Post Via Recess Appointment, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 7 January 2002
  24. ^ Bush Envoy Puts Latin Post, and a Stormy Past, Behind Him, New York Times, 17 June 2004
  25. ^ Spinwatch - Reporters Without Borders Unmasked
  26. ^ a b c Reporters Without Borders ordered to pay 6,000 euros to Korda’s heir over use of Che photo, RSF, March 10 2004 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "RSFChe" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "RSFChe" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  27. ^ CounterPunch Reporters Without Borders Unmasked
  28. ^ Reporters Without BordersIncome and expenditure
  29. ^ "RSF y la foto del "Che"" (in Spanish). BBC. 2004-03-11. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  30. ^ Pedro de La Hoz, Ménard trasquilado - Tribunal francés prohíbe utilización espuria de imagen del Che en campaña mediática anticubana, Granma, 11 July 2003 (in Spanish)
  31. ^ a b Quand Castro disparaîtra, France 5 (in French)
  32. ^ Reporters sans frontières (2) - mobiliser médias et opinion, presentation of RWB by its delegate in Alsace, Corinne Cumerlato (in French)
  33. ^ Reporters Without Borders suspended for one year from UN commission on human rights, Reporters Without Borders, 24 July 2003 (in English) (URL accessed on 9 August 2007)
  34. ^ a b Trouble in Tibet Frontline Volume 25 - Issue 07 Mar. 29-Apr. 11, 2008
  35. ^ Why we take so much interest in Cuba
  36. ^ CounterPunch. Reporters Without Borders and Washington's Coups
  37. ^ Maurice Lemoine, Coups d’Etat sans frontières, Le Monde diplomatique, August 2002 (in French) (Portuguese translation)
  38. ^ GMA NEWS.TV, Int'l groups slam attacks against broadcasters
  39. ^ Abs-Cbn Interactive, RWB calls for immediate arrest of Lintuan killers
  40. ^ YouTube - Palestinians Shoot At News Crew
  41. ^ Reporters Without Borders - Launch of Online Free Expression Day
  42. ^ UNESCO Statement on the withdrawal of patronage of the International day for freedom of expression on the internet
  43. ^ UNESCO withdraw patronage to Reporters Without Border

See also

External links

Template:Lists of countries