Press Release from the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG)
As the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS Tunis, 16-18 November 2005) is about to open, there has been a series of serious incidents against journalists and human rights activists. Most shocking was the attack against French journalist Christophe Boltanski on Friday, 11 November. Among other events, journalists and civil society activists planning a Citizens’ Summit on the Information Society were assaulted, abused and detained briefly yesterday as they attempted to hold a preparatory meeting at the Goethe Institute in Tunis.
Under these circumstances, International Freedom of Expression Exchange’s Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) members have come to the conclusion that they cannot continue with an event on freedom of expression planned for today under the auspices of the UN WSIS. The TMG instead will take the opportunity to use this platform to protest in the strongest possible terms this abuse against journalists and freedom of expression.
These serious incidents also illustrate that concerns about holding a United Nations’ Summit dealing with communication and freedom of expression in such a country as Tunisia were justified. Assaults against human rights activists and journalists in the run up to the opening of the World Summit on Information Society had long been predicted by the TMG. The second report of the TMG, entitled: “Freedom of expression in Tunisia: The Siege Intensifies” (www.campaigns.ifex.org/tmg) 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”, a Summit dealing with communication and freedom of expression.
The TMG requests that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as a matter of urgency call on the Tunisian authorities to end attacks on civil society and freedom of expression not only during this Summit, but beyond.
The TMG also urges Kofi Annan to initiate an Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights special investigation into the occurrences around the WSIS.
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.
ARTICLE 19, UK
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