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TMG condemns attempts by authorities to silence dissenting voices

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

Tunisia: TMG Condemns Attempts by Authorities to Silence Dissenting Voices

ARTICLE 19 together with its fellow Tunisian Monitoring Group (TMG) members, condemns the court decision given on the 1st of October to expel the officially acknowledged opposition party of the Tunisian ruling party; the Tunisian Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and the PDP's official newspaper Al-Mawkef from their premises. The weekly newspaper had been stationed in its headquarters for nearly 13 years and has suffered repeated and frequent harassment from Tunisian authorities.

The Director of Al-Mawkef, Nejib Chebbi, and the Secretary General of the PDP, Maya Jribi, have been on hunger strike since the 20th of September. The hunger strike was initiated in protest to the authorities' use of the judicial system to "silence the voices of freedom"; this came following a case brought against the Al-Mawkef director by his landlord for using the apartment he was hiring as PDP headquarters. This charge and subsequent conviction was brought against Chebbi at the behest of the Tunisian authorities who pressurise landlords to act. It is reported that similar branches of the same party have, in the past, also been evicted in similar ways.

The latest attack by the Tunisian security forces on Lotfi Hajji, a reporter for the television station Al-Jazeera, when he attempted to report on the hunger strike, demonstrates the poor level of recognition of freedom of expression rights in the country. Hajji had been prevented from entering PDP & Al-Mawkef headquarters three times already and was again on the 28th of September and 2nd of October prevented from entering the newspaper and party offices.

The TMG sees the blatant attempt to silence dissenting voices through censorship, intimidation and appalling use of judicial courts, as an obvious infringement on the fundamental human right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Tunisia has both signed and ratified.

The TMG calls on the Tunisian government to stop all procedures to expel the PDP from its office and to stop all censorship and blockage of Al-Mawkef and the Progressive Democratic Party's websites. Two websites were blocked a few months ago by the authorities. Access to another website, hosted in Canada, has been blocked in Tunis since 2005 although it is currently accessible from overseas. The TMG lends its support to Nejib Chebbi and Maya Jribi in their campaign for greater acknowledgment of Tunisian human rights and calls on international society demonstrate their support for their case in signing the online petition http://www.petitiononline.com/pdpinfo/petition.html.

Members of the IFEX-TMG:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO), Egypt
ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Index on Censorship, United Kingdom
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), 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), United States
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), United Kingdom

IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group

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