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Foreign Leaders Link Arms For Free Speech In France, Chain Hands At Home

Foreign leaders flaunted their hypocrisy in Paris on Sunday when they honored those killed in the Islamic terror attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Reporters Without Borders, which promotes journalistic freedom, stated that several “countries that restrict freedom of information” were represented at the march. The organization especially called out Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Gabon for their hypocrisy. Many of these countries punish journalists for far smaller offenses than those committed by Charlie Hebdo’s staff.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu of Turkey, who tweeted on Sunday about his “solidarity with the French people,” leads a government that imprisons more journalists than any other in the world. Last week, Turkish authorities briefly imprisoned Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink, who writes about the country’s Kurdish population, on grounds of “propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Likewise, a teenager was imprisoned in December for allegedly insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Russia, represented in Paris by foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, has a long record of intimidating and even killing independent journalists. Reporter Anna Politkovskaya was killed in 2006 for her vocal opposition to Russian policy in Chechnya, though her killers have not been identified. Dozhd, Russia’s only remaining television network, was recently evicted from its studio, and its correspondents are often shouted down in government press conferences.

Many countries in the Arab world, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, imprison journalists and ban media outlets — citing public security. While the French government often asked Charlie Hebdo to tone down its work in the interest of safety, the value being celebrated on Sunday was resistance to censorship, not acquiescence.

This juxtaposition was not ignored on Sunday. Middle East scholar Marc Lynch tweeted, “Glad so many world leaders could take time off jailing and torturing journalists and dissidents to march for free expression in France.” And the BBC featured a French-Gabonese woman in its coverage of the march, who came prepared with a list of journalists imprisoned in Gabon.

While many Americans were outraged to see no major United States official in Paris, it seems that any representative of the U.S. would have landed in awkward company.

Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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