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Tunisian government confiscates issue of newspaper; pro-Ben Ali "advertisements" appear in Egyptian media

(ANHRI/IFEX) - According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Tunisian government has launched its presidential election campaign by confiscating an issue of the "Al Tariq Al Jadid" newspaper, the official paper of the "Mouvement Ettajdid" ("revival movement"). The paper's issue contained an election statement by Ahmed Ibrahim, the movement's presidential nominee.

The Tunisian Ministry of the Interior confiscated the newspaper's issue #149 on 10 October 2009, while the issue was still at the printing house. The ministry claimed that the paper had violated regulations by printing an election statement before the official elections campaign had begun. However, the paper was scheduled to be distributed on 11 October, at the start of the official campaign period.

The "Mouvement Ettajdid" said the government's action aimed to limit and deprive citizens and political groups of equal access to elections advertising in Tunisia. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the ruling party dominate all pro-government newspapers and media and yet they impose restrictions on other nominees and opposition parties. This is one of the reasons that the Progressive Democrat Party (Parti démocratique progressiste, PDP) has boycotted the elections.

At the same time, the Tunisian government is apparently not satisfied with dominating just the Tunisian press with propaganda material for Ben Ali's campaign. An advertising campaign on behalf of Tunisia's president has also begun appearing in the Egyptian and Arabic press. The ads have appeared in the Egyptian "Rose El-Youssef" daily and "Al Mougaz" weekly, two papers with low circulation numbers.

It is expected that the ads, which are "disguised" as news items and reports, will continue to appear in Arabic language papers. The items are written in Tunisian Arabic, indicating that the material is being edited by pro-government Tunisian reporters and officials.

"The elections charade is no longer credible. The only debatable point is the figure to be written beside Ben Ali's name, should it be 99% or 94% (of the vote)?" ANHRI said.
Click here for further information on the Tunisian government's use of "paid propaganda"

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