12 June 2003


CPJ calls for journalists' release

Incident details

Thierry Falise, Vincent Reynaud, Naw Karl Mua

(CPJ/IFEX) - In an 11 June 2003 letter to Laotian President Khamtay Siphandone, CPJ expressed deep concern about the safety of two European journalists and their American guide who were arrested last week by Laotian authorities: Thierry Falise, a Belgian free-lance photographer and reporter; Vincent Reynaud, a French free-lance photographer and cameraman; and Naw Karl Mua, a U.S. citizen of ethnic Hmong origin who was working with the two journalists as a guide and translator. Falise and Reynaud are well-regarded, professional journalists based in Bangkok, Thailand.

On 11 June, the official Lao News Agency reported that the three were arrested on 4 June in northeastern Xieng Khuang province, according to The Associated Press (AP). The AP quoted the official report as saying that the "three foreigners . . . cooperated with bandits to kill a village security man of Khai village, Phoukot district." Ly Southavilay, director-general of the foreign ministry's press department, repeated that alarming accusation in an interview with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency. Ly added that the journalists "came into Laos on a tourist visa, but they were carrying out reporting activities, which is not allowed," according to the AFP.

CPJ fears that the journalists are being punished for reporting on the Hmong rebel movement. The Laotian government has long denied the persistence of the anti-communist rebel movement and has suppressed information about the military's efforts to crush the insurgency.


Send appeals to the president:
- reminding him that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states clearly that "Everyone shall have the right . . . to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers," while acknowledging the government's concerns that Falise and Reynaud may have violated the provisions of their tourist visa by reporting
- noting that the government routinely violates this right, using visa restrictions to limit access to foreign correspondents
- further noting that all local media in Laos remain under the tight control of the communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party
- urging his government to order the prompt and unconditional release of Falise, Reynaud and Naw Karl Mua, as they have committed no crime and were only exercising their internationally recognized right to report the news


His Excellency Gen. Khamtay Siphandone
President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
Office of the President
Lane Xang Avenue
Vientiane, Laos
Fax: +856 21 214 208

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.


Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@) cpj.org
Fax:+1 212 4659568
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