December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Tunisia

OPC Protests Persistent Harrassment of Tunisian Journalists

H.E. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
President
Office of the President
Palais de Carthage
2016 Carthage
Republic of Tunisia
Fax: (011.216.1) 73.19.99

Your Excellency:

The Overseas Press Club of America joins other organizations concerned with freedom of expression and human rights in protesting the persistent harassment, arrests and silencing of Tunisian reporters performing the normal duties of journalists in covering the news.

It is ironic that in the latest case on April 24, Tunisian police arrested, beat and then held Zouhaier Makhlouf long enough to prevent him from attending a dinner with the head of the Paris Bar, Christian Charrière-Bournazel, who arrived in Tunisia specifically to discuss freedom issues.  The police had no arrest warrant and beat Makhlouf severely when he asked for one.  After Makhlouf was released late at night, the French lawyer was able to see him and found him bloodied and with a broken nose.  Makhlouf had recently served four months in jail for publishing pictures of a polluted industrial site, which was exactly the kind of reporting an enterprising journalist should do.

It is even more ironic that on March 25, Tunisian police ordered journalists not to attend a press conference given by Human Rights Watch — and kept a watch on journalists’ homes to make sure of it.  Shortly before that indignity, journalists had been physically blocked from attending a press conference on political prisoners.

Your Excellency, your own statements and the official website of the Tunisian government make a particular point of promising freedom of expression and human rights.  Yet, the events mentioned above are just the latest examples of how much your government has done the opposite.  Not only have other human rights organizations documented a long history of violations, but so has the U.S. Department of State in its most recent report on Tunisia.

We understand that one of your reasons for suppressing the press is to prevent negative news about Tunisia from circulating around the world.  But suppressing the press is far more damaging in the eyes of the world.

We urge you to re-consider your policies toward our Tunisian colleagues and toward human rights in general.

Respectfully yours,

Jeremy Main    Kevin McDermott
Co-Chairmen – Freedom of the Press Committee
cc:

Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Tunisia
          to the United Nations
31 Beekman Place
New York, NY  10022
Fax: (212) 751.0569

H.E. Habib Mansour
Ambassador of Tunisia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic ofTunisia
1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20005
Fax: (202) 862.1858

H.E. Gordon Gray
U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia
Embassy of the United States of America
Les Berges du Lac 1053
Tunis
Tunisia