CJFE Appalled at Assault on Tunisian Journalists

Wednesday, March 5, 2008
CJFE joins with other members of the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) in condemning the attack on human rights activists Sihem Bensedrine and Omar Mestiri upon their arrival in Tunisia on March 3, 2008. Journalist Sihem Bensedrine is the Secretary General of the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC), a Tunisian-based member of IFEX. Bensedrine is also spokesperson of the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT). Mestiri is the managing editor of "Kalima" online newspaper. According to OLPEC's vice-president Naziha Rjiba, the two journalists arrived from Europe in the port of La Goulette. Upon arrival, they were held by customs for six hours, during which time Bensedrine was violently attacked, leaving bruises on her body. The customs agents confiscated cell phones, documents and computer hard discs from both Bensedrine and Mestiri - copying files and passwords from their laptops. This assault follows a recent attack on Samia Abbou and Fatma Ksila, two women activists who were assaulted by police in Sousse on February 18. "Sihem and her colleagues work so hard to protect and promote free expression in Tunisia," said CJFE Executive Director Annie Game "To see them attacked in this way, is a painful reminder of the daily and vicious assaults on free expression in that country." Bensedrine has previously been assaulted on numerous occasions, including while in prison in 2001. She has suffered broken ribs and other injuries, and been called vicious names in the pro-government media for her outspoken campaign for democracy and free expression in Tunisia. CJFE recognized her work and bravery in 2004 when it gave her the International Press Freedom Award which she accepted in a visit to Toronto. She also recently won the 2008 Danish Peace Award. CJFE believes all journalists and human rights activists in Tunisia deserve the same respect under the law of any citizen, and calls for the government to cease these repeated brutal attacks. We further support the complaint being registered by Bensedrine and Mestiri against the customs agents for "brutality" and "false imprisonment." Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) is a coalition of 18 member organisations of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) network. www.ifex.org For further information, contact IFEX-TMG Chair Rohan Jayasekera, Index on Censorship, United Kingdom, tel: +44 20 7278 2313, email Rohan here or visit their website here Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and abroad. www.cjfe.org For more information, contact CJFE Manager, Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 x. 226 -30- Members of the IFEX-TMG: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO), Egypt ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada Cartoonists Rights Network (CRN), United States Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt Index on Censorship, United Kingdom International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Netherlands International Press Institute (IPI), Austria International Publishers' Association (IPA), Switzerland Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo Maharat Foundation, Lebanon Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia Norwegian PEN, Norway World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Canada World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), United States Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), United Kingdom

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