Free expression groups forced to speak out
Tunis, 16 November 2005
Tunisia - Free expression groups forced to speak out
In a country where the right to speak out is under severe repression, sometimes people are moved to drastic action. For the past 30 days Tunisian rights activists, including journalists, lawyers and political rights activists, are doing just that. They are on hunger strike, believing that this is the only way under the current regime that they can get their issues into the limelight.
Yesterday, on 15 November 2005, a delegation of seven members of the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) met with the hunger strikers to hear their concerns.
Crammed into small offices, surrounded by police, the protestors are meeting a stream of visitors from human rights groups to journalists, many of whom are in Tunis to attend the three-day World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). The Summit was opened this morning by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
That Tunisia should be the host country to such a Summit is controversial. This is a country where Internet access is routinely blocked, independent newspapers banned and books are censored. It is also a place where civil society activists are barred from holding meetings by police who are not averse to assaulting - not only Tunisians - but also foreign journalists and observers. Among Tunisia's many political prisoners are writers and Internet journalists.
The hunger strikers have delivered a letter today to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, setting out their three fundamental objectives: Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the release of political prisoners.
The TMG supports them, and calls for the complete lifting of all suppression of writers, journalists and cyber-dissidents whose only act has been to practice their legitimate right to freedom of expression.
For the full text of the letter, visit http://campaigns.ifex.org/tmg or http://www.cjfe.org/protestlets/2005/16112005wsis.html
Note to editors:
The Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) is a coalition of 14 organisations set up in 2004 to monitor freedom of expression in Tunisia in the run up to and following the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The 14 organisations are all members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of 64 national, regional and international organisations committed to defending the right to freedom of expression.
Members of the TMG are:
ARTICLE 19, UK
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Index on Censorship, UK
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), The Netherlands
International Publishers' Association (IPA), Switzerland
Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Norwegian PEN, Norway
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Canada
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), USA
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), UK
The hunger strikers:
Ahmed Néjib Chebbi: Secretary General of the Progressive Democratic Party
Hamma Hammami: Spokesperson of the Communist Workers Party of Tunisia
Abderraouf Ayadi: Vice-president of the Congress for the Republic
Lotfi Hajji: President, Union of Tunisian Journalists
Ayachi Hammami: President of the Mohammed Abbou Support Committee and Secretary General of the Tunis section of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights
Samir Dilou: Member of the board of the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners
Mokhtar Yahyaoui: Judge and President of the Tunisian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary
Mohamed Nouri: President of the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners
IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group