CJFE condems attacks on Tunisian Journalists

Friday, October 23, 2009

His Excellency Mouldi Sakri
Embassy of Tunisia in Canada
515 O'Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 3P8

October 23, 2009

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE condemns the increasing attacks on Tunisian journalists. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information reported these crimes to be part of an organized government campaign to silence writers ahead of the October 25 elections.

Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik has said he was attacked by a police officer in plainclothes on October 23. He links the attack to his recent interview with human rights and opposition activists for the French weekly paper Le Novel Observateur.

On October 20, Zouhayr Makhlouf, a correspondent for the Assabilonline newspaper was arrested by Tunisian authorities. This followed Makhlouf's report on the environmental problems in the industrial district of Nabeul. He was charged with "making insults towards others via a public telecommunications network." Makhlouf was victim to death threats and violent attacks prior to his arrest, with one assault leaving him with a broken arm.

On the same day Sihem Bensedrine, editor of the news outlet Kalima and winner of CJFE's 2004 International Press Freedom Award, was assaulted by police and prevented from attending a workshop on the suppression of the media during the election. Her colleague Lotfi Hidouri, was also barred from attending the workshop a day earlier. Both journalists were detained by police last week for four hours after photographing election campaigns in Tabarka without "authorization" from the Tunisia External Communication Agency.

Ziad El Heni, a journalist for the daily Assahafa, was beaten by authorities on October 15. Also, upon returning from Amman he was stopped at Tunis airport where he was strip searched and had all his documents taken. El Heni's blog "The Tunisian Journalist" has been closed 22 times.

CJFE believes that these journalists are being targeted simply for exercising their right to free expression, and we urge Tunisian authorities to stop the harassment, attacks, and detentions of journalists in the country.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, President

Cc: Ariel Delouya, Ambassador of Canada to Tunisian;
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs