Protest to President Ben Ali of Tunisia over IFJ Web-Site Ban Following UN Summit Criticism

The International Federation of Journalists today protested to the Tunisian government over the banning of the Federation’s web site. In recent weeks, following the World Summit on the Information Society in November when the IFJ sharply criticised restrictions on Internet use and harassment of human rights activists, the IFJ web site has been unobtainable.

“The Tunisian authorities continue to show intolerance of independent opinion and free expression,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “But they are seriously mistaken if they think this will discourage journalists from expressing their solidarity with colleagues in Tunisia.”

The IFJ in a letter to President Ben Ali says that all obstacles on the use of Internet technology and access to information should be lifted, except where they are in line with international standards which may limit access to anti-social sites, covering, for instance, child pornography or incitement to violence.

“The IFJ site is an information point for journalists around the world – including many in Tunisia and other Arab countries. Reporters want information about developments in the region and want to express their solidarity with colleagues,” said White, pointing out that the IFJ site is available in French, Spanish and English and also has an extensive Arabic section. All of the content is uncontroversial, he said.

“It is impossible not to conclude that the sole reason for this ban is a political act of spite to penalise the Federation for defending the rights of all journalists in Tunisia and for its criticism of the authorities,” he said. In an address to governments at the World Summit in Tunis White had said that harassment of rights activists and Tunisian restrictions on access to the Internet cast a shadow over the whole summit process.

He appealed to the President to lift the ban on access to the site immediately and reiterated demands that all restrictions on access to the Internet should be withdrawn.

“If not, Tunisia will be once again be seen to be setting a poor example to the Arab world where people who yearn for more freedom and democracy are pressing their demands for reform,” he said.

The IFJ Executive Committee meeting in Sydney Australia at the beginning of December reiterated the Federation’s support for efforts by the Association of Tunisian Journalists and the Syndicate of Journalists, both members of the IFJ, who are striving to defend journalists’ rights in difficult conditions. The IFJ has also called for a relaunching of a campaign for free speech in the country.

To read the press release in Arabic, please click here.

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