Tunisia Must Provide Concrete Protections for Journalists Following Attacks
The recent attack by protesters against staff of the Wataniya National Television Station in Tunisia, including the stabbing of journalist Walid Hamraoui, is a troubling indication of the deteriorating climate for media and the urgent need for greater government protection of journalists. The violence comes just one week before Tunisia is scheduled to host a series of events for the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
During the past two days, what began as a sit-in by a group of Islamists to protest what they call the ‘lingering secular influence of the old regime’ at the state-run media organization escalated into violence and three staffers from the national television station were assaulted. On April 24, after requesting and being denied protection by the police, reporter Walid Hamraoui was hospitalized after he was brutally stabbed. Two police officers were also reportedly wounded.
“The attacks on Wataniya National Television Station, as well as the recent police crackdown on peaceful protests, are a stain on what has until now been a relatively positive movement towards democracy in Tunisia,” said Charles Dunne, director for Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. “The protection of journalists and the fostering of a vibrant independent media are vital to a well-functioning democracy. Whether the attacks come from the state or non-state actors, Tunisian authorities have a responsibility to vigorously protect journalists if a durable democracy is to take hold.”
The environment for press in Tunisia has become increasingly hostile, with journalists facing attacks from state and non-state actors believed to be pro-government. There are concerns amongst press that the newly installed Islamist government will enforce a strictly-defined ‘code of morality’ in the press. In mid-February, three journalists from newspaper Attounisia were arrested for publishing a photo portraying ‘near-nudity.”
Tunisia is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2011.
For more information on Tunisia, visit:
Freedom in the World 2011: Tunisia
Freedom of the Press 2011: Tunisia
Freedom on the Net 2011: Tunisia
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