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"Never again," say freedom of expression groups

(IFEX-TMG) - The following is a joint declaration by members of the IFEX-TMG:

Tunis, 18 November 2005

"Never again," say freedom of expression groups

Media and freedom of expression groups today, at the conclusion of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), called for a full investigation by the United Nations into attacks on human rights and freedom of expression that took place in Tunisia on the eve of and during the Summit.

Steve Buckley, President of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters and Chair of the Tunisian Monitoring Group (TMG) of freedom of expression organisations said:

"Never again should a United Nations World Summit be held in a country that does not respect its international commitments to human rights and freedom of expression.

"This week in Tunis, both inside and outside the official Summit, we have witnessed serious attacks on the right to freedom of expression including harassment of delegates, attacks on Tunisian and international journalists and human rights defenders, denial of entry to the country, the blocking of websites, the censorship of documents and speeches, and the prevention and disruption of meetings."

In the face of these attacks, it is with relief that we acknowledge the reaffirmation of human rights principles and the right to freedom of expression that is contained in the Tunis Commitment of the WSIS.

On 30 September 2005, 37 governments called on Tunisia to make the WSIS a "Summit in Tunisia, not a Summit on Tunisia". This week's events have put the spotlight not only on Tunisia but also on the central importance of human rights and freedom of expression in the information society throughout the world.

We call on all stakeholders to ensure that human rights and freedom of expression is mainstreamed into all follow-up mechanisms including the Internet Governance Forum and we commit ourselves to working towards that objective.

This week has also reminded us of the importance of being constantly vigilant, and of the courage of those who speak out in the face of repression and censorship. In this respect we welcome the decision of the Tunisian human rights defenders who agreed today to end their hunger strike. We commit ourselves to working with them and other brave defenders of human rights to continue to monitor freedom of expression in Tunisia.

Note to editors:

The Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) is a coalition of 14 organisations set up in 2004 to monitor freedom of expression in Tunisia in the run up to and following the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The 14 organisations are all members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of 64 national, regional and international organizations committed to defending the right to freedom of expression.

Members of the TMG are:

ARTICLE 19, UK
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Index on Censorship, UK
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), The Netherlands
International Publishers' Association (IPA), Switzerland
Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Norwegian PEN, Norway
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Canada
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), USA
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), UK

IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group

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