IFJ Protests over Tunisian Police Violence at Journalists' Headquarters

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) today protested to the Tunisian government over the action of

police who laid siege to the offices of Tunisian Syndicate of Journalists

and assaulted the union's President after he tried to enter the building.

"This is heavy-handed and violent

interference in journalism," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is

unacceptable and demonstrates the intolerance of a regime which puts power

politics before democracy."

According to reports from the

Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT) the union President Neji Beghori

was today barred from entering the offices, assaulted and dragged away by police. The

offices were surrounded by more than 100 policemen after a Tunisian Court ordered the officers of

the union to hand over the keys to the building.

The SNTJ has been split following an

internal dispute which has focused on the union leadership's uncompromising

demands for independence and their unwillingness to publicly endorse President

Ben Ali in national elections next month. A rival faction organised an

extraordinary congress last month and elected new leaders, the majority of them

strong supporters of the ruling RDC party. They also sent a message of support

to the President.

This congress was widely condemned

by national and international human rights groups as politically motivated.

SNTJ leaders, who had failed to win

a court order against the rival congress planned their own meeting to be held

this week, but the IFJ warns that such a meeting will be compromised if there

is a threat of official violence.  "We

are increasingly concerned about this threatening atmosphere and we call on the

authorities to offer guarantees that the meeting will be allowed to proceed,"

said White.

"The IFJ has consistently appealed

for peaceful and democratic solutions to the problems of Tunisian journalism,"

said White. "Normally, court orders are enforced in a non-violent manner, but

the authorities are determined to make a show of their authority and in the

process to teach independent journalists a lesson."

The IFJ says that it will support

fresh efforts to end the damaging rift that has divided journalists. The IFJ

Executive Committee will meet in November to decide how to further support

colleagues in Tunisia.

"Political interference in the heat

of a Presidential election is not uncommon," said White, "but in Tunisia the

impact can be damaging and long term. We need all   journalists to focus on professional

solidarity not party preference."  

For more information contact the IFJ

at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 123 countries worldwide