IFJ Condemns Abduction of Broadcaster in Tunisia and Makes Fresh Call for Unity Congress to Heal Divisions in Journalism

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the abduction of

Omar Mestiri, director of Radio Kalima, a private radio station based in Tunis. Mestiri was

attacked by unidentified assailants in Tunis

around midday, Monday, before being bundled into a car and driven to an unknown

location.

"We

are appalled that a leading voice of independent journalism has been assaulted

and abducted," said Aidan White, IFJ

General Secretary. "The inaction of the authorities over this increasingly violent

campaign against independent journalism is intolerable and suggests strongly

that the government is implicated in the attacks."

According

to the Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT), an IFJ affiliate, Mestiri

was picked up in central Tunis

as he was speaking to a lawyer and has not been seen since.

This

is the latest in a series of attacks and acts of repression against journalists

in recent weeks. Two weeks ago Slim Boukdhir, a freelance journalist and

correspondent of Al Arabya newspaper in Tunisia,

was similarly assaulted and abducted by unidentified men on 28 October. Boukdhir

was later found dumped near a park stripped of his clothes, having sustained

serious injuries. A few days later his

house was surrounded by security forces who denied access to all visitors for four

days.

Another

prominent journalist, Ben Brick, was arrested on 29 October and is awaiting

trial in a case his lawyer described as an attempt by the authorities to

silence legitimate journalism, after publication in the French press of his

articles critical of President Ben Ali's government.

The concern about a government

hand in these events comes as the journalists' community itself was split during

the summer following the election of a new board of the SNJT amidst accusations

of political interference.

Neji Bghouri, President of

the SNJT's original board had his mobile phone blocked following a number of

interviews he conducted in response to Friday's SNJT press release condemning

the list of attacks on media. Zied El Heni, another SNJT board member was

assaulted in October and has also had his website repeatedly closed by the

authorities.

The IFJ Executive Committee,

meeting in London

at the weekend, supported calls for a reunifying congress to end the damaging

division in Tunisian journalists.

"The onslaught on media reinforces

the image of an intolerant and repressive regime in Tunisia," added White. "We call on

the Government to protect journalists, to end all forms of media harassment and

to keep its distance from the affairs of journalists."

For more information

contact the IFJ at   +32 2 235 2207       

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 123 countries worldwide