The 342-square-metre advertisement, which has covered a historic building in Halévy street, in one of central Paris’ most touristic and commercial neighbourhoods since the start of October, is part of a major international publicity campaign promoting Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination.
The ad shows as a seductive desert island in a turquoise sea accompanied by the words: “Where in the world is this?” and “Be the first to visit. Get your visa now,” along with an Internet address for visa applications. A permit from the prefect’s office authorized the ad’s display from 1 October onwards.
As this was just one day before the first anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder at the hands of Saudi government thugs inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, RSF regards the ad as a display of the Saudi regime’s cynicism, the scant heed it pays to international reactions, and its contempt for human rights.
The conjunction of the ad’s appearance with the anniversary of Kashoggi’s murder and the mention of the word “visa” serving a macabre reminder of the murder scene constitute a chilling provocation that France should not permit in an emblematic location in the very heart of Paris.
Drafted by the Paris law firm Cabinet Bourdon et Associés, the application for a summary injunction rescinding the prefect’s office permit for the ad was submitted by RSF to an administrative judge in Paris today.
It argues that, as the Khashoggi murder was a flagrant violation of the values of freedom of expression and the right to life, promoting Saudi Arabia as a leisure and holiday destination for the French public constitutes an unacceptable affront to human dignity and therefore a serious disturbance of public order warranting the judge’s intervention.
Ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Saudi Arabia is a country where press freedom is non-existent and independent journalists are imprisoned and even tortured. At least 32 professional and non-professional journalists are currently detained arbitrarily there.