Reporters Sans Frontières
|Founder||Robert Ménard, Rémy Loury, Jacques Molénat and Émilien Jubineau|
|Type||Nonprofit organization, non-governmental organization with consultant status at the United Nations|
(since July 2012)
|Christophe Deloire, Secretary General|
Pierre Haski, President RSF France
Mickael Rediske, President RSF Germany
Christian Mihr, CEO RSF Germany
Rubina Möhring, President RSF Austria
Alfonso Armada, President RSF Spain
Gérard Tschopp, President RSF Switzerland
Erik Halkjær, President, RSF Sweden
Jarmo Mäkelä, President, RSF Finland
|EUR6 million (RSF France)|
Reporters Without Borders (French: Reporters sans frontières (RSF)) is an international non-profit and non-governmental organization with the stated aim of safeguarding the right to freedom of information. It describes its advocacy as founded on the belief that everyone requires access to the news and information, in line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the right to receive and share information regardless of frontiers, along with other international rights charters. RSF has consultative status at the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the International Organisation of the Francophonie.
RSF works on the ground in defence of individual journalists at risk and also at the highest levels of government and international forums to defend the right to freedom of expression and information. It provides daily briefings and press releases on threats to media freedom in French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Farsi and Chinese and publishes an annual press freedom round up, the World Press Freedom Index, that measures the state of media freedom in 180 countries. The organization provides assistance to journalists at risk and training in digital and physical security, as well as campaigning to raise public awareness of abuse against journalists and to secure their safety and liberty. RSF lobbies governments and international bodies to adopt standards and legislation in support of media freedom and takes legal action in defence of journalists under threat.
To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship on 12 March, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) unveiled a list of 20 Digital Predators of Press Freedom and announced that it is unblocking access to a total 21 websites in the sixth year of its Operation Collateral Freedom.
RSF was founded in Montpellier, France, in 1985 by Robert Ménard, Rémy Loury, Jacques Molénat and Émilien Jubineau. It was registered as a non-profit organization in 1995. Ménard was RSF's first secretary general, succeeded by Jean-Francois Juillard. Christophe Deloire was appointed secretary-general in 2012.
RSF's head office is based in Paris. It has 13 regional and national offices, including Brussels, London, Washington, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Dakar, and a network of 146 correspondents. It employs 57 salaried staff in Paris and internationally. A board of governors, elected from RSF's members, approves the organization's policies. An International Council has oversight of the organization's activities and approves the accounts and budget.
In 2018, RSF launched the Information and Democracy Commission to introduce new guarantees for freedom of opinion and expression in the global space of information and communication. In a joint mission statement, the Commission's presidents, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi identified a range of factors currently threatening that freedom. This includes: political control of the media, subjugation of news and information to private interests, the growing influence of corporate actors, online mass disinformation and the erosion of quality journalism.
This Commission published the International Declaration on Information and Democracy to state principles, define objectives and propose forms of governance for the global online space for information and communication. The Declaration emphasised that corporate entities with a structural function in the global space have duties, especially as regards political and ideological neutrality, pluralism and accountability. It called for recognition of the right to information that is diverse, independent and reliable in order to form opinions freely and participate fully in the democratic debate.
At the Paris Peace Forum in 2018, 12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion, based on the principles set out in the Declaration.
RSF launched the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) in 2018 with its partners the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Agence France Presse (AFP) and the Global Editors Network (GEN). JTI defines indicators for trustworthy journalism and rewards compliance, bringing tangible benefits for all media outlets and supporting them in creating a healthy space for information. JTI distinguishes itself from similar initiatives by focusing on the process of journalism rather than content alone. Media outlets will be expected to comply with standards that include transparency of ownership, sources of revenue and proof of a range of professional safeguards.
RSF's defence of journalistic freedom includes international missions, the publication of country reports, training of journalists and public protests. Recent global advocacy and practical interventions have included: opening a centre for women journalists in Afghanistan in 2017, a creative protest with street-artist C215 in Strasbourg for Turkish journalists in detention, turning off the Eiffel Tower lights in tribute to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi and providing training to journalists and bloggers in Syria. In July 2018, RSF sent a mission to Saudi Arabia to call for the release of 30 journalists. The organization publishes a gallery of Predators of Press Freedom, highlighting the most egregious international violators of press freedom. It also maintains an online Press Freedom Barometer, monitoring the number of journalists, media workers and citizen journalists killed or imprisoned. Its programme Operation Collateral Freedom, launched in 2014, provides alternative access to censored websites by creating mirror sites: 22 sites have been unblocked in 12 countries, including Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. RSF offers grants to journalists at risk and supports media workers in need of refuge and protection.
RSF's annual Press Freedom Prize, created in 1992, honours courageous and independent journalists who have faced threats or imprisonment for their work and who have challenged the abuse of power. TV5-Monde is a partner in the prize.
A Netizen Prize was introduced in 2010, in partnership with Google, recognizing individuals, including bloggers and cyber-dissidents, who have advanced freedom of information online through investigative reporting or other initiatives.
This article may contain excessive or inappropriate references to self-published sources. (August 2020)
RSF issues a report annually.
RSF reported that 67 journalists were killed, while 879 were arrested and 38 were abducted in 2012. The number of journalists killed worldwide in 2014 was 66, two-thirds of whom were killed in war zones. The deadliest areas for the journalists in 2014 were Syria, Palestine, Ukraine, Iraq and Libya. The number of journalists convicted by their government rose to 178 in 2014, most of them in Egypt, Ukraine, China, Eritrea and Iran. RSF said that 110 journalists were killed in the course of their work in 2015. In 2016, RSF stated that, there were 348 imprisoned journalists and 52 hostages. Nearly two-thirds of imprisoned journalists were in Turkey, China, Syria, Egypt and Iran. The RSF's 2017 annual report stated that 65 journalists were killed, 326 journalists were imprisoned and 54 journalists were taken hostage during the year. RSF's 2018 report stated that over 80 journalists were killed, 348 were currently imprisoned, and another 60 were being held hostage.
In addition to its country, regional and thematic reports, RSF publishes a photography book 100 Photos for Press Freedom three times a year as a tool for advocacy and a fundraiser. It is a significant source of income for the organization, raising nearly a quarter of its funds in 2018:
On February 22, 2020, RSF issued a statement condemning the IRGC's call for journalists to be detained in Iran. IRGC intelligence has summoned some journalists[clarification needed] and banned any media activities. Reporters Without Borders described the IRGC's intelligence action as "arbitrary and illegal" and aimed at "preventing journalbourlists from being informed on social media."
Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Iran, RSF issued a statement on 6 March expressing concern over the health of imprisoned journalists.
On April 16, 2020, RSF wrote to two United Nations special rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Health, urging the United Nations to issue serious warnings to governments that restrict freedom of expression in the context of the coronavirus epidemic. The letter, signed by RSF Director Christian Mihr, stated: "Freedom of the press and access to information are more important than ever at the time of Corona's pandemic."
On April 21, 2020, The RSF based in Paris said that the pandemic had amplified and highlighted many crises and over shadowed freedom of the press. The high representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, stated that the pandemic should not be used to justify the limitation of democratic and civil freedoms and that the rule of law and international commitments should be respected. He said freedom of speech and access to information should not be limited and that measures taken against the pandemic should not be used to restrict human rights advocates, reporters, media staff and institutions of civil societies.
On June 25, 2020, RSF issued a statement entitled "Enforced online repentance, Iran's new method of repression". According to the report, the Revolutionary Guards summoned a number of journalists, writers and human rights activists and threatened to detain them, forcing them to express their regrets or apologies for publishing their comments in cyberspace in order to silence them.[clarification needed]
On June 25, 2020, Reporters Without Borders issued a statement entitled "Online Repentance, a New Method of Repression in the Islamic Republic of Iran." According to the report, the Revolutionary Guards summoned and threatened to detain a number of journalists, writers, and human rights activists, forcing them to express regret or apology for posting their views online to silence them. The organization condemned the pressure, threats and silence of social activists.[clarification needed]
RSF's budget for 2018 totalled EUR6.1m. Fifty per cent of the organization's income comes from public subsidy; 12 per cent from foundations; 24 per cent from the publication of photography books and 9 per cent from public donations. Foundations supporting RSF's work include the Adessium Foundation, the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and Pierre Omidyar.
RSF has been criticised for accepting funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in the US and the Center for a Free Cuba. In response, Secretary-general Robert Ménard stated that funding from NED totalled 0.92 per cent of RSF's budget and was used to support African journalists and their families. RSF stated that it ceased its relationship with the Center for a Free Cuba in 2008.
RSF has received multiple international awards honouring its achievements:
Reports published in the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the US Newspaper Guild journal in 2005 criticized RSF for receiving funding from the US government and Cuba opposition groups, and for being part of a "neocons crusade" against the Castro regime. RSF denied the allegations of a political agenda, but confirmed that it had received a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy which is funded through the State Department and from the Centre for a Free Cuba. In 2006, online magazine CounterPunch said that RSF had falsely linked former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the murder of journalists and had failed to criticize his successor's crackdown on press freedom. RSF was criticized for supporting media outlets that were in favour of the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002. In response, RSF stated that it had condemned media support for the coup.
Lucie Morillon, RSF'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 criticised RSF for its connection with Reich who, it said, was a major figure in the Iran-Contra affair, "helped coordinate repeated attempts to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez" and "oversaw the February 2004 coup against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide".
RSF has been critical of press freedom in Cuba, describing the Cuban government as "totalitarian". RSF's Cuba campaign, targeted at reducing tourism to Cuba, 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 RSF 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. RSF said it was "relieved" it was not given a harsher sentence. Che's face had been superimposed with that of a May 1968 CRS anti-riot police agent, and the postcard handed out at Orly Airport in Paris to tourists boarding flights to Cuba.
RSF and Ménard were described as "ultra-reactionary" by the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma. Tensions between Cuban authorities and RSF have been high, particularly after the imprisonment in 2003 of 75 dissidents, including 27 journalists, by the Cuban Government. Those imprisoned included Raúl Rivero and Óscar Elías Biscet. An article by John Cherian in the Indian magazine Frontline stated that RSF "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".
RSF 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. RSF has also received extensive funding from other institutions long critical of Fidel Castro's government, including the International Republican Institute.
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 journalists who were critical of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
An August 2006 article in CounterPunch said RSF had ignored similar attacks on journalists, including Pacifica Radio reporter Kevin Pina, under the Latortue government in 2005 and 2006. 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 criticized RSF's attitude towards Hugo Chávez's government in Venezuela, in particular during the 2002 coup attempt. RSF is said to have supported pro-coup media outlets in Venezuela, and to have used an opposition advisor, María Sol Pérez-Schael, as its Caracas correspondent. In reply, Robert Ménard said that RSF had condemned the Venezuela media's support of the coup attempt.
In 2009, RSF published an open letter to Hugo Chavez in which it stated that Globovision was being "hounded" by the Venezuelan government for its reporting on the 2009 earthquake. The Venezuelan government said that Globovision's reporting on the earthquake was inciting disruption to public order. In an article published by Axis of Logic website, Salim Lamrani, criticised Globovision and said RSF had "tried to turn a serious outrage of journalistic ethics and a serious failure of the responsibilities of the media into a violation of the freedom of the press".
In 2007 John Rosenthal argued that RSF showed a bias in favour of European countries. In the 2009 article about RWB and Venezuela cited above, Salim Lamrani stated that "RSF is not an organization that defends freedom of the press, but is an obscure entity with a political agenda precisely commissioned to discredit through all possible means the progressive governments in the world that find themselves on the United States' blacklist."
Reports published in the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the US Newspaper Guild journal in 2005 criticised RSF for receiving funding from the US government and Cuba opposition groups, and for being part of a 'neocons crusade' against the Castro regime. RSF denied the allegations of a political agenda, but confirmed that it had received a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy which is funded through the State Department and from the Centre for a Free Cuba.
The Observatoire de l'Action Humanitaire (Centre for Humanitarian Action) criticized RSF's lukewarm criticism of US forces for their shelling, in 2003, of Palestine Hotel, in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed two Reuters journalists. The family of one of the deceased journalists, Spanish citizen José Couso, refused to allow the Spain chapter of RSF to attach its name to a legal action led by the family against the US Army, voicing disgust at the fact that RSF interviewed US forces responsible for the shelling, but not the surviving journalists, and that RSF showed acquiescence to the US Army by thanking them for their "precious help".
In 2006, online magazine CounterPunch claimed that RSF had falsely linked former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the murder of journalists and had failed to criticise his successor's crackdown on press freedom.
According to the Observatoire, ever since Robert Ménard was replaced by Jean-François Julliard in September 2008, RSF 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. For example, RSF condemned the 35-year sentence received by American soldier Chelsea Manning, calling it "disproportionate" and arguing that it reveals how "vulnerable" whistleblowers are. In April 2019, RSF stated the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could "set a dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future."
RSF was criticised for supporting media outlets that were in favour of the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002. In response, RSF pointed out that it had in fact condemned media support of the coup.
UNESCO, who initially had granted patronage to the first International Online Free Expression Day to be held on 12 March 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."