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Four journalists including one working for Radio Kalima detained, questioned for several hours; issue of weekly "Ettarik Al-Jadid" seized; six-years sentence against journalist Fahem Boukadous upheld

(OLPEC/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of an 8 February 2009 OLPEC press release:

Police continue to harass independent media journalists

On 7 February 2009, police detained Radio Kalima journalist Faten Hamdi, who was travelling in a vehicle with two friends. She was driven to the Tunis district police station and held for three hours while she was searched and questioned regarding her work at the radio station. She was threatened with imprisonment if she continued to work with Radio Kalima.

The same day, three journalists working for Alhiwar Ettounsi television station were also detained for two hours. On their way to cover a conference, Aymen Rezgui, Amina Jabloun and Badr Essalam Trabelsi were taken to the police station and threatened with reprisal if they continued working for an "illegal station". They were also offered official government positions if they ceased their journalistic work. Their equipment was confiscated, including their camera and memory cards.

The recent harassment is part of a new offensive against independent media outlets by Tunisian authorities that has gone on for more than a week. Since the raid and forced closure of Radio Kalima on 30 January 2009, radio journalists have been harassed by police and put under surveillance, while their telephone lines have been intercepted and disabled.

In another attack, the 31 January edition of the weekly newspaper "Ettarik Al-Jadid", belonging to the opposition party movement Ettajdid, was seized for having republished a transcript of Bechir Laabidi's interrogation. Laabidi is one of the leaders of the Gafsa social movement. Newspaper management was not notified of the seizure by judicial authorities but learned of the event in official newspapers.

On 4 February, the Gafsa court of appeals upheld Fahem Boukadous' sentence of six years imprisonment. A journalist with the El Hiwar Ettounsi satellite station, Boukadous was initially sentenced in absentia on 11 December 2008 without parole for having covered the peaceful demonstrations in the Gafsa mining region.

- is concerned about the new wave of offences against liberties that particularly target independent journalists
- calls for the end of the continued pursuit of Fahem Boukadous so that he may freely continue his journalistic work
- denounces the harassment against journalists in independent media outlets and insists they be permitted to work without police harassment and persecution
- condemns the seizure of "Ettarik Al-Jadid" and assures its full support to the newspaper
- denounces the illegal closing of Radio Kalima offices and the confiscation of its equipment and demands the end of the continued pursuit of Sihem Bensedrine

Naziha Rjiba,
Vice President of the Observatory

Updates the Boukadous case:

For further information on the Radio Kalima raid, see:

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