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Dutch UN Secretary General attache Hamelink quits job in protest

Objects to Tunisia as conference site

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NEW YORK - Dutch communications expert and human rights activist Prof. Cees Hamelink, a personal advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has relinquished his position at the world organization. Hamelink disagreed with the UN decision to allow Tunisia to host the World Summit on the Information Society. By holding the conference in a country where human rights are abused, the UN does not take the subject seriously, according to Hamelink.

To the Dutch scholar, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are essential for the exchange of information. According to Amnesty International reports Tunisia has jailed hundreds of political dissidents and suggests that freedom of the press virtually is non-existent in the country. Recently, a French journalist was seriously wounded in an attack allegedly provoked by his exposé over mistreatment of demonstrators against police brutality in Tunisia.

The attack led to a political controversy between Tunisia and France. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy urged the Tunisian authorities ‘to do everything necessary to ensure that freedom of information and journalists' free exercise of their profession are guaranteed.’ The Tunisian capital, decked with flags, was emptied of its inhabitants, and filled with police. The hosts were expecting about 50 heads of state. Only twenty attended, none of them European.

A professor, Hamelink lectures International Communication at the University of Amsterdam, and Media, Religion and Culture at the Free University in Amsterdam. He also has worked as a journalist and currently is the editor-in-chief of the International Journal for Communication Studies: Gazette.