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No concrete progress after one month in detention

Published on Friday 4 July 2003.
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Journalists Thierry Falise of Belgium and Vincent Reynaud of France completed a month in detention in Laos today. They are now in Phontong prison in Vientiane, which is reserved for foreigners, having been transferred there after their trial on 30 June.

The Thierry Falise and Vincent Reynaud Support Committee is pleased to note that the Laotian ambassadors to France and Belgium recently said the two journalists and their American interpreter could be released soon. The Laotian ambassador to Belgium additionally said today to Falise family members and a Reporters Without Borders representative that the three could be pardoned and freed before 13 July. The committee awaits concrete progress towards their release.

Meanwhile, the Committee is concerned by the visit to Paris on 8 July of the Laotian information and culture minister, who is to be received by UNESCO and the French senate. He is the minister in charge of supervising news reporting in Laos. As such, he represents those authorities who monitor and punish people like Falise and Reynaud who try to work freely as journalists.

The Committee continues to campaign for the unconditional release as soon as possible of Falise, Reynaud and those who were working with them. In the meantime, the Committee calls for an improvement in their conditions of detention: a more spacious cell, regular exercise periods, and weekly visits by their wives and by diplomats.

Statements of protest and support for the two journalists have been pouring in ever since their trial. More than 13,000 people have already signed the online petition on the Committee’s website.

The European Parliament yesterday adopted a resolution calling for the immediate release of the two European journalists and condemning the deterioration of the human rights situation in Laos.

The Committee calls on Belgian and French diplomats to redouble their efforts to obtain the release of the two journalists, their American interpreter and the Laotians who were accompanying them.

The website’s address is http://www.free-falise-and-reynaud.com. It has an online petition and a fund for the support of the families.

Background: Belgian reporter Thierry Falise, a regular contributor to the French news weekly L’Express, and French cameraman Vincent Reynaud were arrested on 4 June in the northeastern province of Xieng Khuang with their interpreter, Rev. Naw Karl Mua, an American of Hmong origin, and four Laotians. They were finishing a documentary about the Hmong minority at the time of their arrest. The Laotian authorities sentenced them on 30 June to 15 years in prison for "obstructing the exercise of authority." The ambassadors of their respective countries and their wives were able to see them yesterday. They are in good health but have requested better conditions of detention.

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