Paris march: Political divide exposed as politicians who repress freedom of speech join rally

The 44 international representatives included the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu; the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov; the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban; and President Ali Bongo of Gabon

There were some unlikely “Charlies” on today’s march for democracy and freedom – and the presence of leaders of countries known for repressing freedom of speech caused consternation among left-wing commentators and human-rights groups in France.

The 44 international representatives included the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu; the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov; the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban; and President Ali Bongo of Gabon.

In the Reporters sans Frontières league table of respect for press freedom in 2013, Turkey came 154th out of 179 countries, Russia 148th, Gabon 89th and Hungary 56th.

 

The respected Le Monde reporter and political commentator Marion Van Renterghem tweeted: “Netanyahu, Lavrov, Orban, Davutoglu, Bongo at the press freedom demo. Why not Bashar al-Assad?”

The Elysée Palace dismissed the criticism. “President [François] Hollande was very clear,” an Elysée source said. “Given that terrorism is a global evil, everyone who wants to help us fight this plague was welcome.

“There was no place for distinctions and stigmatisations. All these leaders had clearly condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo.”

Turkey has recently engaged in a sweeping campaign of arrest of critical and independent-minded journalists or those associated with opposition political parties.

In Hungary, Mr Orban pushed through a law in 2010 which restricts independent media and gives the government extensive power over the flow of information.

In Gabon, journalists are commonly threatened and arrested if they publish information on the alleged widespread corruption of President Bongo and his family.

In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s government cracks down on independent media.