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IPA, PEN and WAN convey TMG recommendations to UN for better promotion of press freedom

(IPA/IFEX) - The following is a 9 June 2008 joint statement by IPA, PEN and WAN, made on behalf of the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) to the 8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council:

Oral Submission by International PEN, the International Publishers Association (IPA), and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN)

8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva
9 June 2008 - Item 6 - Tunisia

In April 2007, the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 18 organisations concerned for the promotion of freedom of expression in Tunisia, issued a report, entitled Freedom of Expression in Tunisia: The Siege Holds which refers to serious breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Tunisia, notably Article 19, following the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), hosted in Tunis in November 2005. These breaches include:

a. Internet and book censorship;
b. Restrictions on freedom of association;
c. Interference in the judiciary;
d. Detention of prisoners of opinion;
e. Reports of torture and police brutality.

The TMG believes that the only recommendation pertaining to freedom of expression, included in the Tunisia UPR report (A/HRC/WG.6/1/TUN/4, revision of Art. 51 of the Press Code) is far from sufficient to address the multitude of problems existing in Tunisia in this field.

The TMG welcomes the release of one of the persons referred to in the TMG report (i.e., journalist and lawyer Mohamed Abbou, released in July 2007, although he remains under restriction), although another journalist, Slim Boukhdir, was arrested in November 2007 and is now serving a one-year prison sentence in difficult conditions in Sfax prison. Also we welcome news of the release of some of the censored books (most of them edited and published by the Arab Institute for Human Rights and the Temimi Foundation) and some positive announced changes in legislation (e.g., the removal of the legal submission procedure with regards to periodicals), but these do not go far enough to address the concerns raised in this report. In addition, we will be looking at the implementation of such announced measures. To date, there is no evidence allowing us to welcome that there has been an ease on Internet blocking, harassment of human rights activists, or restrictions on independent journalism for instance. Once again, we urge the Tunisian authorities to encourage diversity of content and ownership of the press, to stop blocking news websites, to release ALL censored books and to allow new titles to come out.

The TMG also reiterates its recommendation that the Tunisian government must allow legal NGOs to work, and independent organisations to be established without requiring prior political approval. In April 2008, the Kalima newspaper was again denied registration at the Ministry of the Interior, thus preventing it from operating as a legal entity.

In conclusion, while we appreciate the work of the UPR in reviewing the adherence of Tunisia to international human rights mechanisms, we very much hope that the UN will continue its scrutiny and ensure that obligations are met until such time as the questions raised surrounding Tunisia's commitments are resolved.

Members of the IFEX-TMG:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), United States
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
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
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

For further information on the TMG report "Freedom of Expression in Tunisia: The Siege Holds", see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/82418

For further information on the Boukhdir case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94205

International Publishers Association

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