EFJ condemns censorship imposed by Nicolas Sarkozy during a public ceremony in Belgium

The European Federation of Journalists condemns the censorship imposed by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy during the awarding ceremony of the Legion d'Honneur to the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders.

"It is intolerable that journalists are personae non gratae during the official ceremony of the awarding of such an honour to a minister," says Philippe Leruth, EFJ Vice-President. "Quite simply, this is censorship and it constitutes a hindrance to the work of journalists."

Yesterday, the former French President awarded the medal to Didier Reynders, the Belgian Foreign Minister. It was decided upon while Sarkozy was still President but no earlier date could be found. The ceremony took place at Egmont palace in Brussels. Belgian journalists were invited but following the expressed demand of Sarkozy French media were not admitted and invitation cards mentioned that there would be no possibility to ask questions. The order was repeated several times during the ceremony.

The EFJ says it is surprising that the Belgian authorities did accept such a demand which amounts to censorship and in this regard not just towards the French press but also the European one. The obvious aim was to prevent the journalists, whatever nationality they belong to, to ask the former President embarrassing questions about a judicial affair involving him.

The EFJ denounces such a professional prohibition which is incompatible with the freedom of information as granted by Universal Declaration of Human Rights and confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights as well as press freedom proclaimed by the Belgian constitution since 1831 that postulates the duty to inform the public.