Dramatisk i Tunisia: Dødstrusler og angrep på ytringsfriheten

Death Threats and Attacks on Freedom of Expression Intensify in Tunisia

Norwegian PEN, WAN-IFRA, International Pen & Index on Censorship

Tunis, 28 February 2013: Death threats, physical attacks, an emergence of hate speech and accusations of official censorship of critical media have escalated the perilous situation for freedom of expression in Tunisia.

As the political crisis deepens following the assassination of outspoken left-wing political leader Chokri Belaiid, and the resignation on Tuesday of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, attacks against journalists and writers have intensified.

The undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) call on the Tunisian government to condemn such attacks, guarantee the safety of journalists, writers and media workers reporting on the on-going crisis, and implement legislation available to them that better protects freedom of expression.

Death Threats
Tunisia has witnessed an unprecedented campaign of death threats against journalists, writers and media workers critical of the ruling Ennahda Party and its handling of recent events.

Most disturbingly, a ‘death list’ of names of prominent writers and journalists who supposedly “antagonise Islam” is said to be in circulation, with writer and journalist Naziha Rjiba one of those to have received anonymous telephone death threats. It is widely believed the League for Protecting the Revolution – said to have close ties with the Ennahda Party – issued the list. Rjiba received a call shortly after the assassination of Mr. Belaiid in which she was warned to be silent or else “she would be next.”

On 11 February, journalists Nawfel El Wartani and Haythem El Maaki from Radio Mosaique FM had their lives threatened for their coverage of Mr. Belaiid’s funeral. The station had already been the recipient of threats and had applied to the Ministry of Interior for protection.

Veteran journalist and former head of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), Naji Bghouri, has received a number of death threats via email and mobile phone. The latest incident occurred on 14 February when a member of the League for Protecting the Revolution reportedly shouted, “soon, you’ll be killed.” Najiba Hamrouni, current head of the SNJ, has also reported receiving death threats from unknown callers who accuse him of defaming the Ennahda Party and “insulting Islam”.

IFEX members are seriously alarmed by these developments and call on the Tunisian authorities to urgently provide those targeted with a safe environment in which to carry out their work. They also call on authorities to fully investigate those responsible for issuing such threats so as to deter a climate of impunity in the country.

Attacks on Freedom of Expression Escalate
IFEX members consider the 22 January decision by deputy leader of the National Constitutional Assembly, Mehrezia Labidi, to ban journalists from working inside the Assembly as a deliberate attempt to deny access to information, and call on the authorities to recall the decision.

Harassment and physical attacks are also on the rise. On 24 January police interrogated Al-Shrouk journalist, Mona Bou Azizi, following a complaint by a local official over her coverage of events in the city of Qarjani. Bou Azizi has been repeatedly harassed and prevented from carrying out her work.

Reports suggest that security forces have deliberately targeted journalists covering the fallout from the assassination of Mr. Belaid. On 7 February, police in Gafsa City attacked Tunisia Africa News Agency journalist, Farida al-Mabrouki as she covered clashes with protesters. In a similar incident, Shraz Al-Khunaisi, a journalist with Internet TV channel Tunis Al-Ikhbariya, was also attacked and dragged to the ground by police.

Another journalist for the same channel, Ahmad Akkouni, was hit by a rubber bullet while covering clashes between police and protesters in Tunis. The following day, police officers physically attacked Tarek Al-Ghorani, a photographer and staff member with the Tunis Centre for the Freedom of Press, as he took pictures at Mr. Belaid’s funeral.
In addition, rapper and playwright Muhammad Amin al- Hamzawi required hospital treatment following a severe assault by up to five police officers that took place as he participated in the funeral. Al-Hamzawi is known for songs criticising police attacks on protesters.

Hate speech
Evidence is emerging that the media are being subjected to a deliberate campaign of hate speech during prayer ceremonies and in political discourses. Prayer leaders in several mosques across Tunisia have blamed journalists and writers for either “insulting Islam” or “hindering the work of the Ennahda Party”, while journalists criticised by politicians have reportedly been the victims of reprisal attacks.

During the 15 February rally held in support of the Ennahda Party in Tunis, widespread anti-media rhetoric was heard from speakers and marchers alike. Shouts of “shameless media” accompanied physical attacks against journalists covering the event. A prevalence of graffiti slogans stating “Journalists are liars” and “Journalists are hypocrites” can also be seen on the streets of the capital.

Broadcast woes
The independence of the broadcast media has been called further into question following the unplanned proliferation of new radio stations and TV channels across the country, many of which are owned by pro-government, Ennahda Party supporters.

The government has also been accused of silencing a number of emerging independent radio stations by withdrawing frequencies under the pretext of unpaid license fees. On 12 February, Oxygen Radio Bizerte was shut down for 24 hours, a move seen by Tunisian human rights groups as political interference aimed at silencing critical voices.

IFEX members repeat calls for the Tunisian authorities to appoint an independent body that has the power to organise the audio-visual licensing system fairly and without political bias.

Legislative stalling
Despite public statements on 10 December 2012 announcing the adoption of long-overdue legislation, and with it the establishment of the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communications (HAICA), IFEX members note little change regarding the implementation of the government’s media laws, particularly in respect to decrees 115 and 116 concerning media freedom.

As a crucial step in guaranteeing the safety of journalists, IFEX members again call on the Tunisian authorities to implement these decrees as a matter of urgency. For the independence of the media to be assured, wider consultation should also be sought from civil society and journalist organisations to supply HAICA with a broader, more legitimate mandate for chang

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IFEX members, including many of the signatories to this statement, have cooperated since 2005 through the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) to support Tunisian free expression rights on the national, regional and international stage. IFEX members from the TMG group continue this support, collectively and as individual organisations.

Norsk PEN fordømmer angrepet på Westergård

PRESSEMELDING

Norsk PEN fordømmer angrepet på den danske tegneren Kurt Westergaard
Ytringsfrihetsorganisasjonen Norsk PEN tar sterkt avstand fra angrepet på den danske tegneren Kurt Westergaard.  Westergaard ble angrepet i sitt hjem utenfor Århus om kvelden 1. januar av en mann av somalisk opprinnelse.  Mannen tok seg inn i Westergaards bolig ved hjelp av en øks.  Westergaard og hans fem år gamle barnebarn, som var på overnattingsbesøk kom uskadd fra det dramatiske overfallet, mye takket være et spesialbygget sikkerhetsrom på badet.   «Jeg reddet meg inn i sikkerhetsrommet og derfra fikk jeg varslet politiet, mens han energisk prøvde å slå inn døra dit. Men han lyktes ikke, sier Westergaard til nyhetsbyrået Ritzau.

«Denne episoden viser nok en gang hvor skjør ytringsfriheten er blitt i vårt samfunn og hvor viktig det er at vi står fast på forsvaret av retten til fritt å hevde sin røst.», sier Norsk PENs leder, Anders Heger.

Norsk PEN håper verdenssamfunnet vil reagere skarpt mot denne typen voldelige angrep og håper at danske myndigheter vil påse at Westergaard fortsatt kan utføre sitt yrke uten frykt for angrep eller represalier fra religiøse eller politiske grupper eller enkeltpersoner som føler seg krenket av hans tegninger.

Fellesuttalelse om angrep på demonstranter i Minsk

27 March 2008
President Mr. Alyaksandr Lukashenka
220016, ul. Karla Marxa 38, Minsk
Fax: +375 172 26 06 10 / +375 172 22 38 72

The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus
Mr Miklashevich P.P.
220050 Internacionalnaja 22, Minsk
Tel. +375 17 2264360
+375 17 2264360

The Ministry for Internal Affairs
Mr Naimov, V.V
220050 ul. Gorodskoi Val. 4, Minsk

The Human Rights House Foundation, the Rafto Foundation, Norwegian PEN, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and The Norwegian Union of Journalist condemn the arrests and brutal attacks by riot police of peaceful demonstrators in Minsk. Andrej Liankevich, photojournalist of Nasha Niva was brutally beaten and arrested by riot police on 25 March. We especially condemn the arrests of journalists covering the event, and the ongoing harassment of independent media and individual journalists.

On 25 March thousands of Belarusians came to take part in a peaceful demonstration in Minsk dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Belarusian Democratic Republic. The riot police used brutal force against the peaceful participants. More than 100 were detained. Among them were correspondents from Lithuania and citizens from Poland and Ukraine.

The photojournalist Andrej Liankevich´s case was submitted to the judge Alena Lapceva of the Zavadskoj district, Minsk. The trial started March 26, but case was returned to the Police Office (Savecki RUUS) by the judge “for completion the case with documents stating accusations” on March 27. Another journalist of Nasha Niva Sjamen Pechanko was arrested and sentenced to 15 days arrest by the Court of Maskouski City District, Minsk. They were both charged with violating the order of organizing and holding mass events (Art. 23.24 Code of the administrative offences).

The journalists were detained despite the fact that they were covering the rally. We regret that Belarusian state authorities do not recognize the role and the rights of journalists, who report from ongoing events in Belarus. We condemn the practice of the Belarusian judiciary, which do not acquit journalists, when it obvious that there is no legal basis for the cases.

After the demonstration on 25 March, 75 administrative cases were brought to court against the participants. According to the police reports, they were charged with violating the order of organizing and holding mass events, by participating in a demonstration, not authorized by Minsk authorities. As a result of the trials, 26 people were sentenced to short jail terms of 5-15 days, over 50 people were fined. 20 people were traumatized with different types of injuries caused by police violence. Activists Andrei Babitski, Zmister Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich and Mikita Shutsiankou were all severely beaten. Even an under age girl, Alena Makarevich,was severaly beaten in the Partyzanski police department.
We are very concerned to learn that today, 27 March, KGB started a countrywide search in the offices and apartments of independent mass media and their journalists. The searches are taking place in the apartments of the journalists Eduard Mielnikau, Anatol Hatochyts (Homiek), Alena Stsiapanava, (Vitsiebsk), Tamara Shchapiotkina (Biaroza), Hienadz Sudnik (Mahileu) as well as in the editorial office of Radio Racyja in Minsk.

The KGB representatives are presenting search orders, signed by legal investigators from Minsk City Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to the Belarusian Association of Media, it is stated in the orders that the searches are carried out with regards to breaches of article 367 of Belarus’ Criminal Code («Libel in Relation to the President of Belarus»). This action shows that the Belarusian state does not accept the existence of independent media and civil society and we consider this a grave violation of article 19 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We fully support the efforts of the Belarusian Association of Journalists protecting journalists and defending the freedom of expression.

·    We urge Belarusian authorities to stop the current harassment of Belarusian media outlets and journalists.
·    We ask the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all citizens arrested during the peaceful demonstration.
·    We also urge the Belarusian authorities to start an independent investigation of the human rights violations and abuses of the police related to the Independence Day 25 of March 2008.

Sincerely

Maria Dahle
Executive Director
Human Rights House

Therese Jebsen
Executive Director
Rafto Foundation

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General
Norwegian PEN

Bjørn Engesland
Secretary General
Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Kjetil Haanes
Vice President
Norwegian Union of Journalists

Copies sent to:
Council of Europe, Strasbourg
OSCE office, Minsk
ODIHR, Warsaw
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Steering Committee on Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Parliament