IFJ Welcomes End to Hunger Strike and Urges New Campaign For Press Rights In Tunisia

The International Federation of Journalists which yesterday called on the President of the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate Lotfi Haiji and others who have been on hunger strike in protest at violation of human rights to end their protest, today welcomed the news that the protest had been called off.

The IFJ says that a new campaign should be launched to defend independent journalism, free expression rights and civil liberties in Tunisia.

“This strike was an important statement by human rights defenders up to and during the World Summit on the Information Society,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary who visited the strikers with the head of the International News Safety Institute Rodney Pinder in central Tunis yesterday. “We salute the courage and commitment of those involved, but it is time to refocus the campaign for rights by building solidarity around a new initiative to bring about lasting change.”

In his meeting with Lotfi Haiji, White pledged the continuing support of journalists’ unions around the world for the syndicat, which has suffered from official obstruction in its efforts to hold a statutory meeting earlier this year.

“The journalists of Tunisia have been among those who have suffered most from intimidation by the authorities,” he said. “It is time to lift all restrictions on free expression rights and to allow journalists to report freely.”

The IFJ also met with representatives of the Association of Tunisian Journalists who welcomed international support and pluralism both in media and in the organisation of media professionals.

“The challenge facing all of us when the United Nations road show has left town,” said White, “is to maintain and invigorate the struggle for free journalism in Tunisia. “ He said this issue would be among the key questions being discussed by IFJ leaders when they meet in Australia early next month.

Lotfi Haiji was one the hunger strikers. The others are Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, Hamma Hammami, Abderraouf Ayadi, Ayachi Hammami, Samir Dilou, Mokhtar Yahyaoui and Mohamed Nouri.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries