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IFJ seeks freedom for ailing journalist Fahem Boukadous

(IFJ/IFEX) - 17 January 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Prime Minister of Tunisia, Mohammed Ghannouchi, to release journalist Fahem Boukadous who is serving a four year jail term and suffering from severe asthma.

In a letter to Prime Minister Ghannouchi, who has assumed power in Tunisia following the ousting of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last week, the IFJ cited several reports warning that the journalist who suffers from asthma, is in urgent need of medical help and his condition is worsening.

"We appeal to your Excellency to release this journalist and save his life," said the letter signed by IFJ President Jim Boumelha and Senior Vice President M'jahed Younes.

The crisis was confirmed in a conversation today with his wife. "At this moment his wife says his release is not only urgent for reasons of politics and justice, but also of simple humanity. It is a matter of life and death," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

The IFJ letter noted the recently announced Tunisian government's commitment to press freedom and reminded the Prime Minister that a previous appeal to former President Ben Ali on 13 October 2010 had gone unanswered.

"In the light of the current political developments in Tunisia and your promise to respect press freedom and human rights, we urge you order the immediate release of Boukodous," said the IFJ.

Fahem Boukadous, a correspondent for the satellite channel "Tunisian Dialogue" was sentenced to four years a year ago and his conviction was upheld by a Court of Appeal last July. He was prosecuted following his reporting of public demonstrations against unemployment and corruption in the mining town of Gafsa in 2008. All his co-accused who allegedly had taken part in the protests have been released.

The IFJ also called on the newly formed government in Tunisia to instruct the security forces to do all they can to protect journalists who are covering events in this crisis period. The call followed the killing of Lucas Mebrouk, a dual French and German photographer who died on Sunday after being hit in the head by a tear-gas canister during clashes between rioters and security forces on Friday in the capital, Tunis, which left him in a coma for two days, media reports say.

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