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African Commission should examine Tunisia's poor record on freedom of expression, say TMG members

(TMG/IFEX) - On the opening of the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) in Gambia, members of the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) call on Commission members to examine Tunisia's record on freedom of expression and related human rights. The TMG is a group of twenty member organisations of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) network. The 47th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR runs from 12 to 26 May 2010.

Over the years, including during a fact-finding mission to Tunisia that ended last week, the TMG has documented a range of free expression violations. As such, the TMG would like to draw attention to the need for improvements in the country's protection of human rights, and call on the ACHPR to examine the repression of freedom of expression and press freedom in Tunisia.

The TMG welcomes the adoption on 10 May by the NGO Forum, held prior to the 47th Ordinary Session, of a resolution on Tunisia submitted by TMG mission leader Amadou Kanoute of ARTICLE 19. It urges the ACHPR to: "Conduct a fact-finding mission to Tunisia for an objective and documented assessment of the situation of a pluralistic and independent media, freedom of association, the independence of the judiciary and the detention of prisoners of opinion."

"While the country may boast socio-economic achievements, these need to be matched with similar strides in effectively upholding commitments to freedom of expression and human rights that are covered under conventions to which Tunisia is a signatory," says Kanoute.

Members of the TMG mission that took place from 25 April until 6 May wish to draw the ACHPR's attention specifically to:

  • the plight of local journalists who have applied for independent newspaper licenses or radio frequencies and have received no replies;
  • judges who have been removed from their positions and been sent hundreds of kilometres away from their families for requesting a margin of freedom to discharge their duty in good conscience;
  • bloggers whose sites are hacked or blocked, while they are routinely arrested and harassed;
  • the takeover of the legitimate board of the National Journalists Syndicate of Tunisia (SNJT) by government supporters and the harassment of Board members;
  • the constant surveillance and harassment of rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others who have been critical of the government.

    The mission members also underscore the contrast between the country's highly visible institutional and legislative architecture and the notable failure of those very institutions and laws to support independent and credible journalism, protect human rights activism and entrench an objective judiciary.

    The five members of the recent TMG mission were ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, the International Press Institute (IPI), Norwegian PEN, and the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN. A full mission report will be launched in June.

    To download the full statement submitted to the ACHPR, click here:

    IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group
    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
    ARTICLE 19
    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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