Túnez - Government’s repeated attempts to silence journalists’ union (2010)

The publication in May of a report on press freedom in Tunisia by the Tunisian National Union of Journalists (SNJT), created in 2008, led to widespread attacks against the new union by government supporters. The document denounced the injustice against hundreds of national television and radio journalists on strike since January in protest at the government’s refusal to meet their demands. A few days after the report came out, members of the pro-government media orchestrated a campaign against the SNJT. The resignation of several pro-government members of its executive led to its dissolution and to the “appointment”, tainted with irregularities, of a new executive bureau openly supportive of President Ben Ali’s party the Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique (RCD). On 8 September police evicted SMNJT members from the union’s premises and prevented other journalists from entering, including Neji Bghouri, the president of the legitimate SNJT. Several other union activists became the target of threats and bullying by their employers, the authorities and unknown attackers. On 8 October, Neji Bghbouri, Néjiba Hamrouni and Zied El Heni were subjected to lengthy security checks and had documents confiscated when they arrived at the airport on their way back from Jordan where they had attended an International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) conference. On 15 October Hanène Belaïfa, a freelance journaliste on Radio Jeune (Youth Radio) and an SNJT activist, who had notably campaigned for the rights of temporary staff in the audiovisual media, was prevented from entering the radio station. On 16 October, Zied El Heni was beaten by unknown attackers in a public square in Carthage and his blog was hacked. On 3 November Sihem Bensedrine, a journalist and human rights activist, was struck by police as they prevented her from attending a colleague’s trial. On 30 December plain clothes police officers tried to prevent Neji Bghbori from entering his office at the Assahafa daily paper, claiming they had received orders from the Ministry of the Interior. The intervention of several colleagues and passers-by ensured that this last act of harassment of the year against a journalist /trade unionist failed. (See 2009 Survey for more information on the creation of the SNJT).

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