Auteur: Andrew Rettman
A French press watchdog has highlighted the hypocrisy of some VIPs at Sunday’s (11 January) march in Paris, while Hungarian PM Viktor Orban used the event to call for a crackdown on immigration.
Orban told Hungarian state TV in the margins of the rally, held in support of free speech and tolerance in Europe, that the Charlie Hebdo murders should make the EU restrict access to migrants with “different cultural characteristics”.
Referring to the flow of African and Arab migrants to the EU, he said: “Economic immigration is a bad thing in Europe, it should not be seen as having any benefits, because it only brings trouble and danger to the peoples of Europe".
"Immigration and cultural questions related to that must be discussed in a much more open, honest and straightforward manner than until now. I hope that a composed, calm analysis of the recent events will guide European leaders and Brussels towards a tough policy restricting immigration”, he added.
“While I am PM, Hungary will definitely not become an immigration destination. We don't want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary".
His remarks come amid concerns the Charlie Hebdo killings - carried out in the name of Islam after the magazine published cartoons of Mohammed - will increase the popularity of Europe’s far-right parties and movements.
Members and associates of Orban’s Fidesz party have in recent years attracted notoriety for anti-Semitic and anti-Roma statements.
Hungary also ranked at just 64 in the 2014 World Press Freedom index published by French NGO Reporters Without Borders - the fourth lowest in the EU after Croatia (65), Greece (99) and Bulgaria (100).
In June last year, Hungary imposed a tax on media advertising revenue, hitting independent broadcasters such as RTL Klub, while granting exemptions to loyalist TV stations, such as TV2.
The Croatian, Greek, and Bulgarian leaders also attended the Paris rally.
Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov told Bulgarian media he might be willing to table new legislation on greater transparency of oligarch ownership of leading media.
But he denied his country has a serious problem.
“With our presence here we showed that we value this freedom and support it”, he said.
The French NGO also singled out high-profile visitors from Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for criticism.
Algeria (ranked 121 in the press freedom ranking) has a blanket ban on public demonstrations, prompting the Algerie-Focus website to note the irony that its foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, was on the streets of the French capital.
“Marches and public protests are banned in Algeria, but Algerian ministers have the right to march in the streets of ... Paris!”, it said.
Gabon is ranked 98. Egypt (159), Russia (148), and Turkey (154) are among the world’s top jailers of critical reporters, while the UAE slipped backward three places to 118 in the French watchdog’s last assessment.
“We should show solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting the world’s other ‘Charlies’,” Reporters Without Borders’ secretary general Christophe Deloire said on Sunday.
“It would be intolerable [if] representatives from countries that reduce their journalists to silence profit from this emotional outpouring to … improve their international image”, he added.
“We should not allow the predators of the press to spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo”.
Saudi Arabia also sent dignitaries to the Paris event.
They attended despite the fact Saudi authorities, on Friday, flogged Raif Badawi, a blogger who writes in support of liberal democracy and free speech, in a public square in Jeddah.
An Arabic cartoon published on Twitter on Sunday showed pencils being flayed by whips.
One woman at the Paris event also carried a placard which said “I am Raif Badawi, the Saudi journalist who was flogged” in reference to the "I am Charlie" solidarity slogan, British daily The Guardian reports.