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TMG calls for end to harassment of journalists in Tunisia

(IFEX-TMG) - The Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 20 members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) - the global network of free expression campaigners, has received reports of further harassment of Tunisian journalists.

Two journalists working for an independent radio and online magazine in Tunisia who have been the target of threats and violent assault are the latest victims of a continuing campaign of harassment against independent media, according to press freedom supporters in the country.

Mouldi Zouabi, a journalist with Radio Kalima, was assaulted on 1 April 2010, by an unnamed attacker outside the police station in the northern town of Jendouba. Zouabi was left on the ground, with bruises and broken glasses, and his wallet with personal papers and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) press card, were stolen. Although Zouabi registered a complaint before the Jendouba Prosecutor he is convinced that officials were behind the assault.

Another journalist and blogger, Moez Jemai, a correspondent for Kalima online magazine and radio in the southern town of Gabes, has received anonymous telephone threats. Jemai told the TMG, "He threatened me and swore he would rape my sister, who is an academic, if I did not withdraw my articles and if I did not stop criticising the regime." Jemai said his independent journalism exposing corruption is behind other threats he received from police officers on 30 March, when he was warned over his work with Kalima. Kalima reporters continue to be harassed and threatened while carrying out their work.

These are the latest acts of intimidation against independent journalists in recent months. On 26 November, Taoufik Ben Brik, an independent journalist, was sentenced to six months imprisonment following publication of critical articles over the October re-election of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Observers say that that he was convicted on unrelated charges that were unsubstantiated and clearly politically motivated. He is due to be freed by 26 April.

Fahem Boukadous, a reporter for the satellite TV station El Hiwar Ettounsi was accused of "forming a criminal association liable to attack persons" following his reports on a demonstrations against unemployment and corruption in the mining town of Gafsa in 2008. He was sentenced to jail for four years, but is free pending another hearing in Gafsa on 27 April.

These are not isolated incidents. "There is a pattern of discrimination and intimidation which we strongly oppose," say TMG members. "We call on the Tunisian government to immediately free Taoufik Ben Brik, drop the charges against Fahem Boukadous and to stop orchestrating attacks against independent journalists."

IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
International Press Institute
International Publishers Association
Journaliste en danger
Maharat Foundation
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Norwegian PEN
PEN International
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

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