CPJ Protests Tunisian Harassment of
Journalist Taoufik Ben Brik
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His Excellency
Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali
President of the Republic of Tunisia
Presidential Palace
Tunis, Tunisia

 

Protest this attack on the press.
Send a fax to:

011-216-1-744-721

 

June 23, 1998

 

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to protest the Tunisian authorities' harassment of Taoufik Ben Brik, a correspondent for the Paris-based daily La Croix -L'Evenement.

On June 18, Ben Brik was summoned to the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Tunis by two plain clothes police officers and brought before Mohammad Ali Ganzoui, assistant to the Minister of Interior, La Croix reported. During their encounter, Ganzoui accused Ben Brik of writing "subversive" material--a reference to a June 12 article carrying the byline of Ben Brik and La Croix senior reporter Julia Ficatier. The article discussed, among other things, police harassment in Tunisia including arbitrary raids and searches of people's homes. Ganzoui subsequently urged Ben Brik to cease his work as a journalist.

Over the last several years, CPJ has documented with grave concern ongoing government pressure against the press in Tunisia. Journalists who have attempted to provide critical coverage of state policy or have written about sensitive political issues have been the targets of swift official responses, including dismissal from their jobs, denial of accreditation, and restrictions on foreign travel. Since 1991, four foreign correspondents have been expelled from the country for what authorities have deemed their critical coverage of Tunisian affairs. As a result of these measures, the press in Tunisia remains highly self-censored.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ views Thursday's action against Taoufik Ben Brik as a clear attempt at intimidation with the intent of discouraging investigative reporting. Such measures represent flagrant violations of the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to ensure that Tunisian authorities end their harassment of Taoufik Ben Brik and that he be allowed to carry out his professional duties without interference. Furthermore, we reiterate our request that Your Excellency adopt the following recommendations aimed at bringing Tunisia's practices in accordance with international standards for a free press:

Acknowledge publicly your concern about the climate of fear and self censorship that pervades the media in Tunisia, and your commitment to take steps to reverse this troubling situation and foster freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.

State publicly that the Tunisian government accepts the principle that it has a duty under internationally recognized norms of free expression to ensure media pluralism, including the dissemination of a diversity of views, even if these views are opposed to or critical of prevailing state policies.

Encourage journalists in the government and private press to carry out independent reporting, with an explicit guarantee that authorities will not penalize them, directly or indirectly, for such professional activities.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.

 

Sincerely,

William A. Orme, Jr.

Executive Director