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IFEX-TMG members express concern over banning, censorship of publications

(IFEX-TMG) - The following is a 24 January 2007 IFEX-TMG letter to Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali:

His Excellency Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali
President of Tunisia
Fax: +216 71 744 721

24 January 2007

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group, a coalition of 16 press freedom and freedom of expression organisations, to express our serious concern that Tunisian authorities arbitrarily ordered Dar Assabah not to issue its new weekly magazine, L'Expression, and banned the French magazine Historia Thématique.

According to reports, the first issue of L'Expression, published by Dar Assabah, was scheduled to appear on 5 January. However, despite first being told by the government that the magazine would be permitted, shortly before publication of the first issue the authorities ordered Dar Assabah not to publish the magazine.

In early January, the government also banned the January-February issue of the French magazine Historia Thématique, which examined issues of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. This is the first time since its establishment in 1909 that Historia Thématique has been banned.

The order not to publish L'Expression and the banning of Historia Thématique are the latest acts in a campaign of state harassment of the media, a campaign that includes censoring publications and jailing journalists.

We respectfully remind you that forbidding the publication of L'Expression and banning Historia Thématique are clear breaches of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers."

We respectfully call on you to permit the publication of L'Expression and the distribution of the banned issue of Historia Thématique immediately and to halt the campaign of media intimidation. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Members of the IFEX-Tunisia Monitoring Group:

Arabic Human Rights Information Network (HRinfo), Egypt
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 Press Institute (IPI), Austria
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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