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Recent attacks on journalists unaddressed at meeting between Egyptian official and Tunisian ambassador

(HRinfo/IFEX) - HRinfo has expressed its deep sorrow about the results of the meeting held between Dr. Botros Botros Ghaly, chair of the National Council for Human Rights, and Abd el Hafeez el Herqam, the Tunisian ambassador, on 1 July 2007.

During the meeting, Dr. Ghaly ignored the Tunisian government's violent acts against Tunisian journalists and human rights activists, in addition to the assault carried out on Lotfy Hegy, the chair of the Tunisian journalists' group president on 29 June.

Dr. Ghaly and the Tunisian ambassador discussed tools for fostering cooperation on human rights issues between the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt and the High Institute for Human Rights in Tunisia, in order to prepare for the conference arranged by the council, discussing democracy and human rights in Africa, convened for December in Egypt. The meeting ended without even referring to the severe repressive actions engaged in by the Tunisian authorities in June against journalists and human rights activists in Tunisia.

The following incidents should have been raised:

Hegy, the Tunisian journalists' association chair, and Ali Ben Salem, the human rights activist and member of the Tunisian Alliance for Human Rights, were beaten by security agents.

The authorities also prohibited a seminar scheduled for 29 June, entitled "freedom of conscience and belief", organised by the Democratic Coalition for Work and Freedoms.

The authorities have also prevented "Kalema" newspaper employees from entering the premises and issuing the newspaper's electronic bulletin (see IFEX alert of 7 June 2007).

They have also prevented the members of the National Council for Freedoms in Tunisia from meeting.

Journalist Abd Allah el Zawary's internal exile in southern Tunisia was extended by 26 months, contrary to the law (see alerts of 8 and 6 June 2007, 24 and 1 February 2005, 1 March 2004, 10 October, 29 and 28 August 2003, and others).

Tunisian security agents seized the cameras and other photographic equipment of two journalists, Lotfy Heidory and Tawfiq el Aiashy.

The authorities also prohibited a meeting of the Executive of the International Association for the Defence of Political Prisoners.

As well, journalist Selim Bokhzir has been physically assaulted and received death threats due to his writings on corruption in Tunisia.

"When the chair of the National Council for Human Rights ignores the Tunisian government's violations and discusses Egyptian-Tunisian cooperation, I begin to fear what is behind this cooperation, which will be a mask to cover the severe violations practiced by the Tunisian government. The cooperation in addition will cover up the government's assaults by paid commercials given to some newspapers; they will establish cooperation agreements with some organizations supposedly defending human rights such as the Egyptian Council, and if this is true I think it is considered an unacceptable collusion", HRinfo Executive Director Gamal Eid said.

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