The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the
pledge from Tunisian President Ben Ali to allow press freedom and to end internet
censorship, saying the move vindicates the long-running campaign for
independence by journalists led by the Syndicat national des journalistes
tunisiens (SNJT), an IFJ affiliate.
"We welcome this commitment to press freedom by President Ben Ali," said
Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "It is long overdue and now he must make good on
Boumelha said the President's new policy, a major reversal of long-time
opposition to independent journalism by the government, would not have happened
without the commitment and spirited campaigning of the union and its members.
"They can take pride that their sacrifices and determination to speak out for
their rights have paid off," he said.
In a speech to the nation broadcast yesterday as protests over
corruption practices and high unemployment rates spread the whole country,
President Ben Ali announced a package of measures designed to calm the riots,
including the commitment to press freedom and the end of censorship of the internet
and the people who use it.
The IFJ says the Tunisian authorities have targeted journalists in recent
years to stifle criticism of the country's ills which have now led to open
revolt on the streets. This targeting led to trumped up charges against leading
independent journalists, including Fahem Boukadous and Taoufik Ben Brik who
received jail terms, says the IFJ. Fahem remains in jail, despite concerns for
his poor health.
The Federation also accused the Tunisian government of interfering in
media affairs which compromised the unity of journalists and led to a split in
the summer of 2009. At the outset of the recent
protests, the government took to censoring internet websites to prevent images
of violent repression of the massive demonstrations reaching the outside world.
"The authorities must show their good faith by releasing immediately
Fahem and all other journalists detained in Tunisia," added Boumelha. "Nothing
short of this will convince the world that the President's promise is made in
good faith and is not a desperate act to pacify protesters and to buy himself
time to reassert his authority."
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 members in 125 countries