Tunisia: Journalists attacked by security forces while covering a demonstration

Several journalists and demonstrators were attacked with nerve gas by security forces in Tunis on 22 July, during a protest against the new draft constitution which was ultimately adopted on 25 July. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its affiliate, the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) in condemning targeted violence against journalists and called on the judicial authorities to investigate the attacks.

Security forces attacked journalists and demonstrators in a protest in Tunis on 22 July. Credit: Fethi Belaid / AFP

Members of the SNJT executive board were among the targets of police violence, including its president Mohammed Yassine Jelassi, whose face was sprayed with nerve gas at close range, and required urgent treatment. Some attacks were explicitly directed at female journalists. 

The demonstration, organised by civil society and youth organisations, as well as political parties in Habib Bourguiba Avenue, was attacked by hundreds of heavily armed agents mobilised by the Ministry of Interior. 

Several protestors were seriously injured and required medical assistance, and others were unlawfully arrested while exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate.

The Tunisian draft constitution, which was officially endorsed on 25 July following a popular referendum, gives the President absolute powers. The IFJ and SNJT have voiced their concerns about the threats to media freedom that the new amendments pose.

The SNJT calls on the judicial authorities to assume their responsibilities and launch an investigation into the arbitrary police practices that have targeted dozens of Tunisians. The union calls for the law to be applied and for an end to the impunity of the perpetrators. 

In their statement, the SNJT said: “we reaffirm our absolute support for all forms of demonstration, protest and expression, which are considered as the most important achievements of the Revolution”.

IFJ Secretary General Anthony Bellanger said: “We call on the Tunisian authorities to halt repression against journalists and media workers. All media professionals should be allowed to carry out their professional duty of informing the public without being subject to any kind of violence”.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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