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Journalist fined and given eight-month suspended sentence

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ press release:

IFJ Accuses Tunisian Authorities of Targeting Journalists in a Bid to Silence Critics

The International Federation of Journalists today accused the Tunisian authorities of misusing the law to silence critics, after a court in Tunis gave journalist and human rights activist Neziha Rejiba an eight-month suspended sentence and a fine of approximately 810 euros.

According to one of Rejiba's lawyer's, she could be "picked up for even a minor infraction of the law and jailed."

"Charging a journalist as a criminal on an absurd and minor charge over a foreign currency technicality is unacceptable," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "This is a barefaced attempt to silence a well-known defender of civil rights in Tunisia and to stifle the voice of dissent."

Upon her return from a trip abroad in September, Rejiba, better known by the surname of "Om Zied", editor-in-chief of the outlawed paper "Kalima" and prominent member of the Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie (CNLT), was interrogated by officials of the Customs Enquiries Directorate and charged with violating the law regulating the exchange of foreign currency. However, Tunisian sources report that according to the country's legislation, she has not broken any laws.

The IFJ urges the local authorities to lower the temperature by repealing the sentence handed down to Rejiba and by allowing her and her family to work free from harassment and intimidation.

The IFJ has warned against the increasing level of impunity in Tunisia and has called on the government to allow for freedom of the media and freedom of expression. "This sort of action gives little confidence that Tunisia is a proper venue for the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society," said White.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.

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