Pledge to Free Press in Tunisia Vindicates Journalists' Struggle, Says IFJ

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

his promises."

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