Report from Tunisia 20. June 2011: The Scars of Oppression Run Deep

Tunis 20.06.11:

If Tunisians are to play an informed part in the transition phase and beyond, they need a free and independent media and a strong, democratic and open civil society to hold power to account, according to a new report published by the 21 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange – Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), including ARTICLE 19.

The Scars of Oppression Run Deep: Assessing the Critical Requirements for Freedom of Expression in Tunisia’s Democratic Transition report was released on 16 June, 2011 to national and international media as well as local civil society groups at a press conference held in Tunis. It provides a sample of opinions gathered from a broad cross-section of over 60 media professionals, civil society advocates and authorities interviewed in Tunisia during the course of a mission that took place from 9 to 16 April.

“The Tunisian government must – in consultation with stakeholders – put in place a conducive framework that will ensure pluralism and diversity in the media. The new media landscape should take in to account the democratic aspirations of Tunisians and address swiftly the monopoly of the sector by the close allies of the former regime,” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 representative for the TMG, during the press conference in Tunis.

The IFEX-TMG is a coalition of 21 IFEX members, including ARTICLE 19, which campaigns to raise awareness of free expression violations in Tunisia and to support independent journalists, writers, and civil society activists in their struggle to end censorship in the country.

The report documents key concerns and immediate challenges regarding censorship and freedom of expression in Tunisia. Recognising the advances that have already been made since 14 January, it also addresses the fundamental issues raised by key stakeholders with regards to maintaining the momentum of change and ensuring the widest participation for the democratic transition to succeed.

In a detailed set of recommendations, the report outlines the work required by the transitional government, civil society groups, the media and consultative bodies in order to guarantee freedom of expression in the country. The most immediate concerns include:

– To redress the lingering effects of the former regime that are having a negative effect on the transition process across many areas of society, and in particular the media.
– To ensure plural voices are heard and informed debates undertaken so that the people of Tunisia can continue to effectively engage and shape their own futures.
– To support Tunisian journalists in their ongoing efforts to strengthen professional skills and standards, particularly in view of the forthcoming elections.

Read the whole report on this link.

Siste rapport fra Tunisia, 20. juni 2011

Tunisia: Scars of Oppression Run Deep in the Tunisian Media

Tunis 20.06.11:

If Tunisians are to play an informed part in the transition phase and beyond, they need a free and independent media and a strong, democratic and open civil society to hold power to account, according to a new report published by the 21 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange – Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), including ARTICLE 19.

The Scars of Oppression Run Deep: Assessing the Critical Requirements for Freedom of Expression in Tunisia’s Democratic Transition report was released on 16 June, 2011 to national and international media as well as local civil society groups at a press conference held in Tunis. It provides a sample of opinions gathered from a broad cross-section of over 60 media professionals, civil society advocates and authorities interviewed in Tunisia during the course of a mission that took place from 9 to 16 April.

“The Tunisian government must – in consultation with stakeholders – put in place a conducive framework that will ensure pluralism and diversity in the media. The new media landscape should take in to account the democratic aspirations of Tunisians and address swiftly the monopoly of the sector by the close allies of the former regime,” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 representative for the TMG, during the press conference in Tunis.

The IFEX-TMG is a coalition of 21 IFEX members, including ARTICLE 19, which campaigns to raise awareness of free expression violations in Tunisia and to support independent journalists, writers, and civil society activists in their struggle to end censorship in the country.

The report documents key concerns and immediate challenges regarding censorship and freedom of expression in Tunisia. Recognising the advances that have already been made since 14 January, it also addresses the fundamental issues raised by key stakeholders with regards to maintaining the momentum of change and ensuring the widest participation for the democratic transition to succeed.

In a detailed set of recommendations, the report outlines the work required by the transitional government, civil society groups, the media and consultative bodies in order to guarantee freedom of expression in the country. The most immediate concerns include:

– To redress the lingering effects of the former regime that are having a negative effect on the transition process across many areas of society, and in particular the media.
– To ensure plural voices are heard and informed debates undertaken so that the people of Tunisia can continue to effectively engage and shape their own futures.
– To support Tunisian journalists in their ongoing efforts to strengthen professional skills and standards, particularly in view of the forthcoming elections.

Read the whole report on this link.

Tunisia:

«Vår» mann blir leder av et nytt uavhengig medieråd

Kamel Labidi leder nytt, tunisisk medieråd

Den tunisiske journalisten Kamel  Labidi, som i en årrekke har arbeidet som rådgiver for Tunisian Monitoring Group (TMG), ble sist lørdag utnevnt til leder for et nyopprettet medieråd, the National Council to Reform Information and Communication, i Tunisia.

Rådet skal, i løpet av de neste månedene, intervjue  både journalister og akademikere, samt  en rekke organisasjoner – inklusive fagforeninger – for å få en oversikt over hva som til nå har forhindret en fri meningsutveksling i Tunisia, og så foreslå tiltak for å bringe tunisisk presse på nivå med internasjonal presse hva angår ytrings- og pressefrihet.

Labidi stillte to klare betingelser for å akseptere oppdraget:  At rådet skulle være uavhengig av myndighetene og bidra med selvstendige og uavhengige avgjørelser, og at rådets konklusjoner og anbefalinger skal offentliggjøres i tunisiske medier parallellt med at de også overleveres regjeringen før endelig vedtak i det nye parlamentet.  Rådets arbeid er foreløpig tidsbegrenset til 6 måneder.

Labidi, født i 1949, har en master i journalistikk og en i engelskspråklig litteratur fra et tunisisk universitet .  Han var medlem av redaksjonen i “Tunis Afrique Presse” (TAP) fra 1975, men ble “permittert” i tre år (1978-81) fordi han nektet å delta i den offisielle mediekampanjen rettet mot den tunisiske fagbevegelsen.  Han ble så sparket fra jobben i TAP og fratatt retten til å praktisere journalistikk og å være korrespondent for den franske avisen “La Croix” og pressebyrået UPI.  Labidi var så direktør for tunisisk Amnesty før han ble tvunget i eksil i 1996.  Etter det har han levd i eksil i Egypt og USA, vært rådgiver for Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) og bidragsyter til en rekke internajonale medier.

Tunisia: Kamel Labidi to chair National Independent Authority for Information and Communication

TUNIS, Feb. 27, 2011 (TAP)

Mr. Kamel Labidi was appointed, according to an authorised source from the Interim Government, as Head of the National Independent Authority for Information and Communication.

Mr. Kamel Labidi was born on June 4, 1949 in Bouhjar, Monastir.

He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Institute of Press and Information Science (IPSI-1975) and another in English Literature (1976) from the Tunis Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Mr. Labidi also obtained a post-graduate diploma (DEA) in communication sciences from Paris II University.

He joined the editorial services of «Tunis Afrique Presse» (TAP) news agency in 1975 and was discharged for 3 years (1978-1981) because of his refusal to participate in the official media campaign conducted against the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) before the events of January 26.

He was then dismissed from his job in TAP in 1994 and banned from practicing journalism as correspondent to French newspaper «La Croix» and United Press International (UPI) Agency for his hostility to the November 7 regime.

Mr. Labidi was director of the Tunis section of Amnesty International (1995-1996) before being forced into exile like dozens of Tunisian journalists.

He then wrote in Arab and Western newspapers, in addition to his position as co-ordinator of education on human rights at the regional office of Amnesty International Organisation (Lebanon), between 2000 and 2001. He was also adviser to the international network for exchanging information on freedom of expression (2004-2011).

Mr. Labidi, then, became representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), resident in Cairo, and was afterwards adviser to this same organisation in Washington (2005-2010).

Tunisia februar 2011:

Mange skjeletter i skapene

PRESSEMELDING

“Det er mye som gjenstår i Tunisia.  Riktignok har presidenten flyktet, men alt for mange av hans tidligere sympatisører sitter fortsatt i sentrale stillinger i mediene eller i statsadministrasjonen.  Vi kan derfor ikke stole på den nye regjeringen.”

“Dette er bare noen av de mange utsagnene vi registrerte på en større konferanse i Tunis sist fredag.  Konferansen, som var arrangert av en rekke tidligere forbudte aktører i det sivile samfunn i Tunisia, hadde som målsetting å se nærmere på hvordan opposisjonen og de frivillige organisasjonene kan samarbeide i tiden framover, slik at man kan sikre en ekte, demokratisk utvikling i landet.  Disse organisasjonene var tidligere forbudt av regimet, og bare det å arrangere en slik konferanse i Tunisia for en måned siden var helt utenkelig.  Myndighetene gjorde alt de kunne for å hindre folk og organisasjoner i å møtes.”

Dette sier generalsekretær i Norsk PEN, Carl Morten Iversen, som nettopp er kommet tilbake fra et tredagers opphold i Tunisias hovedstad Tunis.  “Alle bildene av president Ben Ali som møtte deg på flyplassen, på store plakater rundt i Tunis, i kaféer og hotellresepsjoner og daglig på forsiden av regjeringsorganet “La Presse”,  er fjernet”, sier Iversen.  “Dette betyr ikke at demokratiet er sikret.  Riktignok har presidenten flyktet, men det sitter alt for mange av hans tidligere støttespillere i sentrale posisjoner i overgangsregjeringen, i statsadministrasjonen og i mediene.  Man har i dag ingen sikkerhet eller garanti for at et demokratisk styre vil kunne bli resultatet av den prosessen som nå pågår.”

Det sivile samfunn og den politiske opposisjonen i Tunisia er nå inne i en kritisk fase.  “Nesten alle de vi snakket med innså at Tunisia nå har en sjanse til å etablere et fungerende demokrati, men det haster.  Det er mange aktører og mange skjeletter i skapene.  Journalister i “La Presse” som har bedrevet omfattende svertekampanjer mot ytringsfrihets- og menneskerettighetsaktivister, framstiller nå seg selv som revolusjonens helter og angriper den flyktede presidenten som de tidligere støttet.  Det er neppe troverdig,” sier Iversen, som har bidratt i overvåkningen av Tunisia gjennom Tunisian Monitoring group (TMG) siden 2004 og besøkt landet seks ganger siden 2005.

“Det er viktig at man ikke glemmer Tunisia nå som hele verdenspressens oppmerksomhet er rettet mot Egypt.  Våre kolleger i Tunisia trenger fortsatt internasjonal hjelp og støtte, bl.a. til å etablere frie og uavhengige medieinstitusjoner, inklusive et uavhengig medieråd.  Medlemsorganisasjonene i TMG arbeider nå med å bidra til at dette arbeidet blir finansiert og kommer i gang så snart som mulig”, legger han til.

Bakgrunn
Tunisian Monitoring Group (TMG) er en gruppe organisasjoner som alle er medlem av ytringsfrihetsnettverket IFEX.  Gruppens mandat var å overvåke situasjonen for ytrings- og pressefrihet i Tunisia i tiden fram mot, og seks måneder etter FN-konferansen World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) som fant sted i Tunis i november 2005.  Da mandatperioden var over våren 2006 uten at man hadde sett vesentlige positive endringer i regimets politikk, besluttet gruppen å fortsette arbeidet.  TMG har publisert fem omfattende rapporter.  Disse, samt utfyllende informasjon om TMGs arbeid og medlemmer er tilgjengelig på IFEX – Tunisia.  TMG har nå EU-midler som finansierer tre pågående prosjekter i Tunisia: 1. Rettstatens uavhengighet, 2. Forsamlingsfrihet og 3. Ytringsfrihet.

7. februar 2011

For nærmere informasjon:
Carl Morten Iversen 926 88 023

Tunisia: Freedom of Expression under Siege

Tunisia: Freedom of Expression under Siege

Report of the
IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group on the conditions for participation in the World Summit on the Information Society, to be held in Tunis, November 2005

February 2005

Executive Summary
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) is a global network of 64 national, regional and international freedom of expression organisations.

This report is based on a fact-finding mission to Tunisia undertaken from 14 to 19 January 2005 by members of the  IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG) together with additional background research and Internet testing.

The mission was composed of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights, International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, International Publishers Association, Norwegian PEN, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and World Press Freedom Committee.

Other members of IFEX-TMG are:  ARTICLE 19, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), the Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Index on Censorship, Journalistes en Danger (JED), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

The principle findings of the mission were:

·    Imprisonment of individuals related to expression of their opinions or media activities.

·    Blocking of websites, including news and information websites, and police surveillance of e-mails and Internet cafes.

·    Blocking of the distribution of books and publications.

·    Restrictions on the freedom of association, including the right of organizations to be legally established and to hold meetings.

·    Restrictions on the freedom of movement of human rights defenders and political dissidents together with police surveillance, harassment, intimidation and interception of communications.

·    Lack of pluralism in broadcast ownership, with only one private radio and one private TV broadcaster, both believed to be loyal supporters of President Ben Ali.

·    Press censorship and lack of diversity of content in newspapers.

·    Use of torture by the security services with impunity.

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) believes that Tunisia must greatly improve its implementation of internationally agreed freedom of expression and other human rights standards if it is to hold the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November 2005.

In particular we urge the Tunisian authorities to:

1.    Release Hamadi Jebali, editor of the weekly Al Fajr and hundreds of prisoners like him held for their religious and political beliefs and who never advocated or used violence.

2.    End arbitrary administrative sanctions compelling journalist Abdellah Zouari to live nearly 500 km away from his wife and children and guarantee his basic right to freedom of movement and expression.

3.    Release the seven cyber dissidents known as the Youth of Zarzis who, following unfair trials, have been sentences to heavy prison terms allegedly for using the Internet to commit terror attacks.  During the trials, no evidence of wrongdoing was offered, according to their lawyers and local and international human rights groups.

4.    End harassment and assaults on human rights and political activists and their relatives and bring to justice those responsible for ordering these attacks and perpetrating them.

5.    Stop blocking websites and putting Internet cafes and Internet users under police surveillance.

6.    Release banned books, end censorship, and conform to international standards for freedom of expression.

7.    Take action against interference by government employees in the privacy of human rights and political activists and end the withholding of their mail and email.

8.    Lift the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defenders and political activists, including Mokhtar Yahyaoui and Mohammed Nouri.

9.    Take serious steps toward lifting all restrictions on independent journalism and encouraging diversity of content and ownership of the press.

10.    Promote genuine pluralism in broadcast content and ownership including fair and transparent procedures for the award of radio and TV broadcast licences.

11.    Allow independent investigation into cases of torture allegedly perpetrated by security forces.

12.    Conform to international standards on freedom of association and freedom of assembly and grant legal recognition to independent civil society groups such as the CNLT, the Tunis Center for the Independence of the Judiciary, the League of Free Writers, OLPEC, the International Association to Support Political Prisoners, the Association for the Struggle against Torture, and RAID-ATTAC-Tunisia.

The full report is available at:

English: Tunisia: Freedom of Expression under Siege

Et personlig brev fra Tunisia

Kjære venner

Jeg beklager at jeg ikke har skrevet tidligere for å fortelle at jeg aldri har sett at så mange grenser er blit flyttet siden president Ben ali flyktet fra Tunisia 14. januar.  Den utrolige prosessen med å legge et diktatorisk styre bak seg utvikler seg nå meget raskt.  Stats- og privateide medier, inklusive de som var eid og kontrollert av Ben Alis familie, samt aviser som drev svertekampanjer (mot opposisjonen), lar nå politiske dissidenter og menneskerettighetsaktivister få snakke ut.  Det er ikke lenger forbundet med fare for lokale medier og journalister å intervjue kjente opposisjonelle og rettighetsaktivister som Moncef Marzouki, Sihem Bensedrine, Mokhtar Yahyaoui eller Kelthoum Kennou.

Det demokratisk valgte styret i Den Tunisiske Dommerforeningen (Association of Tunisian Judges – AMT, tidligere forbudt og nærmest overtatt av myndighetene i 2005), møtte justisministeren forrige uke.  De får nå gradvis tilbake sine rettigheter etter den urettmessige straffeforfølgelsen de ble utsatt for i 2005.  En rekke tunisiske dommere er nå tilbake i de kontorene de ble kastet ut fra for seks år siden.

Søndag kveld stoppet “Hannibal TV” midlertidig sine sendinger etter at myndighetene hadde besluttet å arrestere eieren, Larbi Nasra,  og hans sønn for høyforrederi.  Nasra var kjent for å være nær venn av president Ben Ali.  Mange mennesker uttrykte bekymring for ytringsfriheten da Hannibal TV plutselig stoppet å sende, men sukket lettet da TV-stasjonen gjenopptok sendingene.

Det er fortsatt demonstrasjoner i gatene, særlig i hovedstaden Tunis, der demonstrantene ber om at den såkallte “nasjonale samlingsregjeringen”, bestående av en rekke toppolitikere fra Ben Alis regjering, sparkes.  Disse protestene vil ventelig avta så snart noen, om ikke alle disse politikerne som var involvert i korrupsjon og promotering av Ben alis politikk, er blitt kastet ut av landet.

Tunisia, 24. januar 2011

Kamel Labidi

2010: Tunisia: Fahem Boukaddous

16. October 2010

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
President
Palais Présidentiel
Tunis, Tunisia

Lazhar Bououni
Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
31 Boulevard Bab Benat
1006 Tunis – La Kasbah
Tunisia

Boukaddous seriously ill; Tunisian PEN member facing prison sentence

International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) is seriously concerned about the health of Fahem Boukaddous, correspondent for Al-Badeel news website and TV journalist, who is serving a four-year prison sentence for his reports on social protests. Since his imprisonment in July, Boukaddous has been suffering from increasingly frequent and debilitating asthma attacks and remains in urgent need of medical treatment not available to him in prison. He has been on hunger strike since 8 October. Meanwhile, journalist and internet writer Mouldi Zaouabi, who works for the online magazine Kalima and Radio Kalima, is reportedly facing up to two years in prison on trumped-up assault charges. Zouabi is a founding member of the Tunisian PEN Centre. The WiPC calls on the Tunisian authorities to release Boukaddous immediately and unconditionally and to ensure that he receives the medical care he requires. It also calls for the charges against Zouabi to be dropped.

Yours sincerely

Annaguli Yildam,
Member of Norwegian PEN, WiPC