(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Minister of the Interior Abdallah Kallel, RSF protested the confiscation of Taoufik Ben Brik's books at the Tunis airport. RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard asked the minister "to return the books to the journalist." "Though we thought that the pressures brought to bear against Taoufik Ben Brik had eased, this latest measure demonstrates once again that the Tunisian authorities seek to stop him from freely exercising his work as a journalist and writer by all possible means as well as to restrict freedom of expression in Tunisia," added Ménard. Ben Brik said he did not understand the measure. "Why am I allowed to enter, but not my books?" he asked.
According to information collected by RSF, on 22 November 2000, at around 11:30 p.m. (local time), Ben Brik and Hélène Flautre, a member of the European Parliament from the Green Group - ALE (Free European Alliance) and vice-president of the Maghreb delegation to the European Parliament, were detained for almost two hours at the Tunis airport after arriving from Paris on an Air France flight. Their luggage was searched and several dozen books that were written by Ben Brik were confiscated, including 55 copies of "Le Rire de la baleine" ("The Laugh of the Whale", published by Le Seuil), 37 copies of "Et maintenant, tu vas m'entendre" ("And Now, You Will Listen To Me", published by Exil - Aloès) and 16 copies of "Une si douce dictature" ("Such a Sweet Dictatorship", published by La Découverte - Aloès - RSF). Two copies of "La Torture en Tunisie 1987/2000 - Plaidoyer pour son éradication et contre l'impunité" ("Torture in Tunisia 1987/2000 - A Plea for its Eradication and Against Impunity") by the Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia (The Time of Cherries) were also seized. The police services invoked the pretext of "illegal imports" and issued a statement of seizure to the journalist, but refused to give one to the member of parliament. In "Le Rire de la baleine", Ben Brik relates his hunger strike, which he started on 3 April in Tunis.
The correspondent of RSF, the French daily "La Croix" and the Infosud and Syfia news agencies began his hunger strike to protest the constant harassment that he was subjected to: anonymous telephone threats, the cutting of his telephone and fax lines, police surveillance of his home, physical attacks, pressures on his family, etc. On 26 April, RSF representatives and three French journalists were roughed up by plain-clothes police officers on their way to the journalist's home, where they they had planned to interview him. Several Tunisian human rights activists who were accompanying the French journalists were detained, including the journalist's brother, Jalel Ben Brik. On 15 May, Taoufik Ben Brik ended his hunger strike in Paris after learning of his brother's release.