National Post

UNESCO candidate denounced as anti-Semite
National Post

Voting for the new head of UNESCO ran into a political storm yesterday after critics accused the leading candidate of making anti-Semitic remarks and supporting censorship.

Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian Cultural Minister, is the frontrunner to become director general of the United Nations’ cultural agency. His candidacy has also won the support of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President.

But critics question his suitability for the post, pointing to his statement last year that Israeli books should be burned.

The remarks came in response to a question from an Egyptian MP about Israeli books in Egyptian libraries. « Let’s burn these books; if there are any, I will burn them myself before you, » he reportedly said.

Other activists have accusing Mr. Hosni of colluding in censorship and violation of press freedom in Egypt, and are pressuring UNESCO members not to vote for him. « Hosni is Culture Minister in a country that doesn’t respect freedom of speech, » said Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. « It’s difficult to see someone like that as head of UNESCO. »