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Rights groups: Tunisia increasing 'violations' against journalists

Tunisian journalists take part in a demonstration organized by The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) next to the government palace in Tunis, Tunisia, on 26 November 2020. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian journalists take part in a demonstration organized by The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) next to the government palace in Tunis, Tunisia, on 26 November 2020. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]

Two human rights organisations accused the Tunisian authorities of widening "violations" against journalists since President Kais Saied announced his exceptional measures on 25 July 2021.

In a report entitled 'Reporting under the Weight of Fear,' Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) said: "The exceptional measures provided a fertile ground for the authorities to expand their violations against journalistic work, especially after they replaced constitutional texts in the form of presidential orders that have a legislative nature. These measures unsoundly allow presidential orders to prevail over the texts of the Constitution."

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September and a government has since been formed. In December, Saied announced that a referendum will be held on 25 July to consider 'constitutional reforms' and elections would follow in December 2022.

Tuesday's report said: "The attacks that targeted the press sector in Tunisia included smear campaigns targeting a number of female journalists through intimidation, psychological intimidation, and threats to prevent them from practicing their professional activity normally."

READ: Tunisia boosts security for seasonal pilgrimage to historic synagogue

"Violations against journalists reached an unprecedented level on 8 April 2022, when the military court in Tunis sentenced journalist Amer Ayyad to four months in prison on charges related to freedom of opinion and expression, the first time that a journalist was tried before a military court," it added.

The report called on the Tunisian authorities to open an independent investigation into all attacks against journalists and press entities including physical and verbal assaults, arbitrary detention, and storming of press institutions; bring those responsible to justice to ensure that they do not go unpunished; and stop issuing restrictive decisions against journalistic work.

Is Tunisia's state of emergency being used to restrict freedoms? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Is Tunisia's state of emergency being used to restrict freedoms? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

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