The International Federation of Journalists condemned today the attack by Tunisian security forces on a television crew that was reporting from Tunis on the eve of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), which begins tomorrow.
“The Summit will descend into chaos unless the security forces back off and allow journalists to work” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The Tunisian government must stop its heavy-handed practices immediately”.
The security forces blocked Belgian TV reporters Marianne Klaric and Jean-Jacques Mathi and human rights lawyer Radia Nasraoui from interviewing representatives of Tunisian NGOs that had organized a meeting in advance of the Summit. The two journalists were preparing a report for Belgian public service TV channel RTBF. At the meeting, security officers wearing civilian clothes grabbed their camera and confiscated a video cassette containing a number of reports that they had previously recorded.
The incident is the latest in a string of threats and attacks against journalists and freedom of expression campaigners. Christophe Boltanski, a French journalist who was covering the repression of human rights activists, was attacked by several men on the street in Tunis over the weekend. In September, Tunisian authorities barred the annual meetings of the Tunisian Journalists’ Syndicate and the Human Rights League. Attacks against freedom of association have been numerous as human rights and labor groups have tried to highlight the repression in Tunisia ahead of the WSIS.
“The summit is off to a very bad start and the coverage of the event is proving dangerous for journalists” said Martine Simonis, General Secretary of the Belgian Association of Professional Journalists (AJP). “The authorities must recognize that they cannot organize a global summit on the information society without journalists. It is surprising that the government has shown its true nature when many thought it would at least attempt to present Tunisia as a free and open country.”
The IFJ is joining the AJP in its protest against the intimidation, brutality and obstructions that the authorities have used to impede the work of journalists in Tunisia.
There is also mounting concern among press freedom groups and the IFJ over a continuing hunger strike by human rights activists, including the President of the Syndicate of Journalists, who are protesting violations of human rights. The government has denounced the action without responding to widespread concern within journalism and the international community about the lack of press freedom in the country.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries