The International Federation of Journalists today accused the Tunisian authorities of delivering a “slap in the face of democracy” with its ban on the congress of the Tunisian Syndicate of Journalists, due to be held next week.
“The decision to ban journalists from meeting to discuss their working conditions is breathtakingly arrogant and a slap in the face of democracy,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It sends out a message that press freedom remains in twilight conditions as the United Nations prepares to hold an important summit on global communications.”
The United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, which opened in Switzerland two years ago, is due to hold its concluding sessions in Tunis in November.
Journalists and campaigners for press freedom had hoped that this event would see a relaxation of governmental influence on media, but the ban on the fledgling Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists from holding its inaugural congress demonstrates that the country’s leaders are still intent on stifling dissident voices.
“Principles of pluralism and independent journalism are alien to a political culture based upon control and manipulation of public opinion,” said Aidan White. “We shall support our colleagues in their efforts to challenge this outrageous interference in their right of assembly.”
The IFJ is planning to go ahead with a solidarity visit to Tunisia by its Executive Committee member Ulrich Remmel. “The international journalists’ movement will not remain silent in the face of this intimidation,” said White.
The IFJ is calling on its member unions to protest to their governments about the ban on the SJT in advance of the summit on the information society. “Every government that makes the trip to Tunis should know that it is stepping into territory where journalism is not free,” said White.
The IFJ has two member organisations in Tunisia, the SJT and the Association of Tunisian Journalists. The IFJ plans to send a delegation to the country despite the ban on the journalists’ meeting. “We have no intention of stepping back in the face of bullying and intimidation. We shall give our colleagues in Tunisia all the support they need to carry on their work,” said White
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The IFJ is representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries