Free expression groups pull out of WSIS Event

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tunisian security forces have assaulted and detained journalists and activists in advance of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), scheduled to be held in Tunis from 16-18 November 2005).

Canadian Journalist Bob Carty, attending WSIS on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, reports that he was stopped by the Tunisian Interior Police on Nov. 14 as he tried to attend a preparatory meeting of free expression groups at the Goethe Institute in Tunis. The agents demanded to see his passport and told him he could not attend the meeting. After reporting this incident to the Canadian Embassy, Carty witnessed the police stop a car in which several European journalists were travelling. They grabbed a camera from a Belgian journalist and confiscated it. Other journalists and civil-society activists planning a Citizens' Summit on the Information Society were assaulted, abused and detained briefly as they prepared to hold the Goethe Institute meeting.

The abuses followed an attack against French journalist Christophe Boltanski on Friday, November 11. Christophe Boltanski was beaten and stabbed and had his personal effects stolen near his hotel in the embassy district. When he cried for help, guards standing outside a nearby embassy did not intervene.

Under these circumstances, members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange's Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) have concluded they cannot continue with an event on freedom of expression planned for today under the auspices of the UN WSIS. The TMG instead will use this platform to protest in the strongest possible terms this abuse against journalists and freedom of expression.

These serious incidents bear out the concerns, previously expressed by free-expression activists, about holding a United Nations' Summit dealing with communication and freedom of expression in a country such as Tunisia. The TMG had long predicted that assaults would take place against human-rights activists and journalists in the runup to the opening of WSIS. The TMG's second report, Freedom of Expression in Tunisia: The Siege Intensifies (, was released in September 2005 following the third fact-finding mission of the group to the country. It stated that Tunisia was "not an appropriate place to hold a World Summit on the Information Society."

The TMG requests that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issue an urgent call to Tunisian authorities to end attacks on civil society and freedom of expression not only during this summit, but beyond.

The TMG also urges Annan to initiate a special investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights into the incidents in Tunis.

For more information, please contact: Rod Macdonell (416) 515-9622 x.227


The Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) is a coalition of 14 organisations set up in 2004 to monitor freedom of expression in Tunisia in the run up to and following the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The 14 organisations are all members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of 64 national, regional and international organizations committed to defending the right to freedom of expression.

IFEX-TMG Members:
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Index on Censorship, UK
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), The Netherlands
International Publishers' Association (IPA), Switzerland
Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
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), USA
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), UK

About CJFE
CJFE is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, producers, publishers, broadcasters, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. Proceeds from the annual awards dinner help protect free expression in Canada, and support embattled journalists around the world.