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Journalist Naziha Rjiba facing trial; weekly "Muwatinoun" seized

(OLPEC/IFEX) - The following is a 23 October 2008 OLPEC press release:

Journalist Naziha Rjiba facing trial and the weekly "Muwatinoun" seized

Today, 23 October, the journalist and writer Om Zied (Naziha Rjiba), received a summons to appear before the Public Prosecutor on 27 October. This summons is tied to an article entitled "They attacked Kalima", published in the 22 October issue of the newspaper "Muwatinoun".

Tunisian dailies announced today that issue #77 of "Muwatinoun", the newspaper of the opposition party Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberty (Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés - FDTL), was seized at the printers for having published "allegations contravening article 73 of the Press Code," and that the case had been sent to the office of the Public Prosecutor. The charge pertains to the article signed by Om Zied (pen name of Naziha Rjiba).

The most surprising element is that the editor of "Muwatinoun", Mustapha ben Jaafar, received no notification of a seizure, nor any summons. He learned of the seizure of his paper, which was supposed to be available in newsstands yesterday, only this morning, by reading the official daily papers.

"Muwatinoun" receives no revenue from public advertising nor does it benefit from subsidies normally granted to opposition newspapers and it is regularly subjected to arbitrary restrictions on its distribution in newsstands.

Naziha Rjiba, who is editor-in-chief of "Kalima" and vice president of OLPEC, was previously the subject of judicial harassment in 2003, during the famous "affair of the 170 Euros", in which she was charged for an "infraction of foreign exchange regulations" for having 170 Euros in her possession. Because of her writing, Naziha Rjiba has been the object of continuous and varied harassment targeting her whole family. This has ranged from campaigns of defamation, and even the use of a faked pornographic video, to the seizure of assets and the financial strangling of her family, as well as threats to the freedom and safety of her children. Most recently, her husband was given an arbitrary prison sentence after he was involved in a road accident.

OLPEC:
- views the Public Prosecutor's summons of Naziha Rjiba as a step towards another opinion trial targeting a well-known writer, journalist and human rights defender
- denounces the arbitrary seizure of "Muwatinoun" for having opened its columns to an article expressing a free opinion, only one week after pressure from authorities led to its distribution being blocked at newsstands
- demands an end to all forms of judicial harassment against Naziha Rjiba and the lifting of all restrictions on the paper "Muwatinoun"
- reminds the Tunisian government of its responsibility to protect the rights of all its citizens without exception, as well as its international obligations with respect to freedom of expression

For OLPEC,
Secretary General Sihem Bensedrine

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