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TMG protests travel restrictions, arrest of human rights activists

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

TMG Protests Travel Restriction and Arrest of Tunisian human rights activists

On 10 December, Mohamed Abbou, a human rights lawyer and writer, and journalist Lotfi Hidouri were prevented from travelling to Beirut for the 3rd Arab Free Press Forum. Mohamed Abbou was once again prevented from leaving the country by the airport police, while Lotfi Hidouri was taken into detention in the airport on his way to Beirut. He was held in jail overnight and taken to court today.

The two were to take part in a special event at the forum, hosted by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), addressing the increased censorship and harassment facing journalists and civil society activists in Tunisia. The forum, which runs from 11-12 December, is hosted by WAN and the Lebanese newspaper "An-Nahar".

WAN is a member of the TMG, a coalition of 18 organisations belonging to the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) network. Many of the other members of the TMG will take part in the special Tunisia panel, which was scheduled to feature Abbou and Hidouri, as well as representatives of the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC), IFEX's member in Tunisia. Neziha Rejiba and Sihem Bensedrine of OLPEC and the online magazine Kalima will speak at the event.

"It is ironic that on International Human Rights Day, Tunisian activists were prevented from attending an event where they were scheduled to speak," said TMG Chair Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship. "This is clearly an attempt to silence them - but we will not let those voices go unheard. These incidents emphasise why it is necessary for the TMG to continue to monitor and advocate for respect of free expression in Tunisia."

The TMG has recently protested against Internet censorship and harassment of journalists and activists, stressing that these attacks are part of a broader pattern of intimidation against journalists and free media advocates perpetrated by the Tunisian authorities to curb freedom of expression in the country.

For more information on recent cases covered by the TMG, see:

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

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