CJFE Appalled at Assault on Tunisian Journalists

    TORONTO, March 5 /CNW/ - CJFE joins with other members of the Tunisia
Monitoring Group (TMG) in condemning the attack on human rights activists
Sihem Bensedrine and Omar Mestiri upon their arrival in Tunisia on March 3,
    Journalist Sihem Bensedrine is the Secretary General of the Observatory
for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC), a
Tunisian-based member of IFEX. Bensedrine is also spokesperson of the National
Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT). Mestiri is the managing editor of
"Kalima" online newspaper.
    According to OLPEC's vice-president Naziha Rjiba, the two journalists
arrived from Europe in the port of La Goulette. Upon arrival, they were held
by customs for six hours, during which time Bensedrine was violently attacked,
leaving bruises on her body. The customs agents confiscated cell phones,
documents and computer hard discs from both Bensedrine and Mestiri - copying
files and passwords from their laptops.
    This assault follows a recent attack on Samia Abbou and Fatma Ksila, two
women activists who were assaulted by police in Sousse on February 18.
    "Sihem and her colleagues work so hard to protect and promote free
expression in Tunisia," said CJFE Executive Director Annie Game. "To see them
attacked in this way, is a painful reminder of the daily and vicious assaults
on free expression in that country."
    Bensedrine has previously been assaulted on numerous occasions, including
while in prison in 2001. She has suffered broken ribs and other injuries, and
been called vicious names in the pro-government media for her outspoken
campaign for democracy and free expression in Tunisia. CJFE recognized her
work and bravery in 2004 when it gave her the International Press Freedom
Award which she accepted in a visit to Toronto. She also recently won the 2008
Danish Peace Award.
    CJFE believes all journalists and human rights activists in Tunisia
deserve the same respect under the law of any citizen, and calls for the
government to cease these repeated brutal attacks. We further support the
complaint being registered by Bensedrine and Mestiri against the customs
agents for "brutality" and "false imprisonment."

    Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) is a coalition of 18 member organisations
of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) network.
    For further information, contact IFEX-TMG Chair Rohan Jayasekera, Index
on Censorship, United Kingdom, tel: +44 20 7278 2313, e-mail:
rj@indexoncensorship.org, Internet: http://campaigns.ifex.org/tmg/

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more
than 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who
work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and
abroad. www.cjfe.org
    For more information, contact CJFE Manager, Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622
x. 226

    Members of the IFEX-TMG:

    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO), Egypt
    ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom
    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
    Cartoonists Rights Network (CRN), United States
    Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
    Index on Censorship, United Kingdom
    International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
    International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA),
    International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
    International Publishers' Association (IPA), Switzerland
    Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
    Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
    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), United States
    Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), United Kingdom

    To get more information about becoming a member of Canadian Journalists
for Free Expression visit: http://cjfe.org/printjoineng.html

For further information:

For further information: Julie Payne, CJFE Manager, Tel (416) 515-9622
x.226, Fax (416) 515-7879, website: www.cjfe.org

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