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Tunisia Monitoring Group expresses serious concerns over continued free expression violations in the country ahead of WSIS Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva

(IFEX-TMG) - The following is an IFEX-TMG press release:

Tunisia - Serious concerns for World Summit on the Information Society

A joint monitoring visit to Tunisia undertaken by members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) has found serious cause for continuing concern about the current state of freedom of expression and of civil liberties in Tunisia, including gross restrictions on freedom of the press, media, publishing and the Internet.

The visit, which took place from 14 to 19 January 2005, was the first of the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group and was organised in preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a United Nations intergovernmental conference to be held in Tunis in November 2005. The purpose of the visit was to evaluate the state of freedom of expression in Tunisia and to assess the conditions for participation in the Summit.

The delegation, consisting of representatives of Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), International PEN Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), International Publishers Association (IPA), Norwegian PEN, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), met with Tunisian writers, publishers and human rights organisations as well as government officials and government-sponsored agencies.

The delegation found serious cause for continuing concern in the following areas:

1. Blocking of websites, including news and information websites.
2. Blocking of the distribution of books and publications.
3. Restrictions on the freedom of association, including the right of organisations to be legally established and to hold meetings.
4. Restrictions on movement of human rights activists together with police surveillance, intimidation and interception of communications.
5. Lack of pluralism in broadcast ownership, with only one private broadcaster.
6. Press censorship and lack of diversity of content in newspapers.
7. Imprisonment of individuals for their opinions and media activities.
8. Use of torture by the security services with impunity.

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group is preparing a full report on the current state of freedom of expression in Tunisia with recommendations for improvement. The report, to be published at the next preparatory committee meeting of the WSIS, will provide indicators for monitoring freedom of expression in Tunisia in the run up to the World Summit. The WSIS Preparatory Committee is to meet in Geneva 17-25 February 2005.

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group consists of:
ARTICLE 19
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR)
Index on Censorship
International PEN Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC)
International Publishers Association (IPA)
Journaliste en Danger (JED)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Norwegian PEN
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)

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