The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned Tunisian customs officials who detained and violently assaulted two journalists, Omar Mestiri and Sihem Bensedrine, on their return from a trip abroad. The IFJ has called for an investigation into the incident.
“This is yet another sign of intolerance and the targeting of independent journalists by Tunisian authorities,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The aim is clearly to silence voices critical of the government through intimidation and we are sure it will not succeed.”
Bensedrine is the Secretary General of the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia while Mestiri is editor-in-chief of Kalima newspaper. They are married and both are well-known activists for press freedom in Tunisia and have been vocal critics of the government’s repressive policies on media.
They returned to Tunisia on Monday by boat after a trip to Europe, during which Bensedrine was awarded the 2008 peace prize by the Danish Peace Foundation. On arrival in Tunis officials detained them for six hours. They were assaulted and forced to turn over their belongings, documents and laptop computers. Bensedrine suffered serious bruising and ligament injuries in one arm.
The couple is filing a complaint against the customs officials.
“There is little doubt of the connection between the action of these customs officials and the government’s anger at these journalists who have been so critical,” White said. “This is a blatant act of intimidation and will not stand. Our colleagues will not back down and we support their protests.”
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide