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Free expression groups pull out of WSIS event

(IFEX-TMG) - The following is a joint declaration by members of the IFEX-TMG:

Free expression groups pull out of WSIS Event

Tunis, 15 November 2005

As the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS Tunis, 16-18 November 2005) is about to open, there has been a series of serious incidents against journalists and human rights activists. Most shocking was the attack against French journalist Christophe Boltanski on Friday, 11 November. Among other events, journalists and civil society activists planning a Citizens' Summit on the Information Society were assaulted, abused and detained briefly yesterday as they attempted to hold a preparatory meeting at the Goethe Institute in Tunis.

Under these circumstances, International Freedom of Expression Exchange's Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) members have come to the conclusion that they cannot continue with an event on freedom of expression planned for today under the auspices of the UN WSIS. The TMG instead will take the opportunity to use this platform to protest in the strongest possible terms this abuse against journalists and freedom of expression.

These serious incidents also illustrate that concerns about holding a United Nations' Summit dealing with communication and freedom of expression in such a country as Tunisia were justified. Assaults against human rights activists and journalists in the run up to the opening of the World Summit on Information Society had long been predicted by the TMG. The second report of the TMG, entitled: "Freedom of expression in Tunisia: The Siege Intensifies" ( was released in September 2005 following the third fact-finding mission of the Group to the country. It stated that Tunisia was "not an appropriate place to hold a World Summit on the Information Society", a Summit dealing with communication and freedom of expression.

The TMG requests that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as a matter of urgency call on the Tunisian authorities to end attacks on civil society and freedom of expression not only during this Summit, but beyond.

The TMG also urges Kofi Annan to initiate an Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights special investigation into the occurrences around the WSIS.

More about the incidents that have occurred in the days preceding the Summit:

* Christophe Boltanski, a correspondent for the Paris daily newspaper 'Libération', was beaten and stabbed and had his personal effects stolen near his hotel in the embassy district. When he cried for help, guards standing outside a nearby embassy did not intervene. The attack took place a day after 'Libération' published Boltanski's report about clashes between police and activists protesting in support of seven hunger strikers campaigning for the release of political prisoners in Tunisia.
* Representatives of Tunisian and foreign media and human rights organisations were prevented by a large number of Tunisian plainclothes police from entering the Goethe Institute, the cultural centre of the German Embassy in Tunis, for a meeting to plan a Citizens' Summit on the Information Society as an side event to the WSIS outside of the official venue.
* Various websites which have contained criticism of Tunisia are available to the delegates at the official WSIS venue, but remain blocked and censored in the rest of Tunisia.

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 organizations committed to defending the right to freedom of expression.

Members of the TMG are:

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

IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group

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