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Police detain and beat journalists Sihem Bensedrine and Omar Mestiri

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has strongly condemned police who detained and beat Tunisian journalist, Sihem Bensedrine, president of the working group on press freedom in North Africa, and her husband, Omar Mestiri, managing editor of the newspaper "Kalima" on their arrival at la Goulette port on 3 March 2008.

The couple were seized by customs officers at the port in the northern suburbs of Tunis and held for six hours, during which time they were physically assaulted by the political police. They were also subjected to a thorough body search and police seized and copied the hard discs from their laptop computers.

"It is outrageous for a country which claims to be in the forefront of modernity in the region to carry out this kind of violent misuse of authority against Tunisian journalists and human rights activists in their own country," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"We call on the Tunisian authorities to fully investigate these police excesses", the organisation added, pointing out that Tunisia is ranked 145 out of 169 countries in Reporters Without Borders's worldwide press freedom index.

Sihem Bensedrine, who was left with bruises to her body, told Reporters Without Borders that she and her husband would be making a complaint against the customs office for "brutality" and "false imprisonment". She said police had seized around 60 documents by copying them from their hard discs. The customs agents had also refused to give the two journalists a docket for their confiscated property as the law requires.

Bensedrine, whose organisation is a partner of Reporters Without Borders, was on 7 February awarded the 2008 peace prize by the Danish Peace Foundation.

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