Newsletter No 2 06 October 2005
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

» In Iraq, the U.S. army has reportedly been holding at least four Iraqi journalists for several month without charges. The journalists are Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, a cameraman working for CBS News who was taken into custody after being wounded by US forces on 5 April in Mosul; Ali Mashhadani, a freelance photographer and cameraman for Reuters news agency who has been held incommunicado since 8 August; Majed Hameed, a reporter for the Dubai-based satellite television Al-Arabiya and also a freelancer for Reuters, who was arrested on 15 September in the Anbar province at the funeral of a relative; and Samir Mohammed Noor, a freelance cameraman for Reuters who was arrested in May. According to reports, U.S. military officials have voiced suspicion that Iraqi journalists have collaborated with insurgents and also had information about attacks on coalition forces. The U.S. forces, however, has never provided evidence to substantiate any claims, despite repeated inquiries over many months.

» In Tunisia, the health of imprisoned journalist Hamadi Jebali is reportedly deteriorating after he went on a hunger strike on 15 September. According to reports, a fellow inmate told Jebali’s wife, Wahida, that the journalist was weak and his condition was getting worse. Wahida Jebali has sent several appeals to President Ben Ali and the Minister of Justice and Human Rights Bechir Tekari, but they have gone unanswered. Jebali, former editor of Al-Fajr, the now-defunct weekly newspaper of the banned Islamic Al-Nahda party, was first imprisoned in 1991 for an article calling for the abolition of military tribunals in Tunisia. Tried the following year by a military court, along with 279 others accused of belonging to Al-Nahda, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison. International human rights groups monitoring the mass trial concluded that the proceedings fell far below international standards of justice. Also concerning Tunisia, the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) has issued a new report saying that Tunisia is unsuitable to host the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), scheduled for 16-18 November 2005. A report issued on 26 September reveals a serious deterioration in free expression conditions in Tunisia, marked by attacks on independent organisations, harassment of journalists and dissidents, and interference in the judicial process. The TMG findings show that attacks on freedom of expression and freedom of association have escalated since January 2005. The TMG is a coalition of 14 organizations created in 2004 to report about freedom of expression in Tunisia. Among the members are the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Index on Censorship and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR).

» In Yemen, the Center for the Rehabilitation and Protection of Press Freedom reports an increase in press freedom violations in the country. The report, which covers the first two quarters of 2005, includes 98 violations of press freedom, including death threats and the murder attempt on Haye al Jahafi, managing editor of the weekly Al Nahar. Among other violations were harassments and attacks of journalists and the closing of publications. A large number of local and foreign journalists have also been arrested for hours and even weeks in some cases, according to the report.

Sources for the alerts:
Arab Press Freedom Watch (AFPW), London
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels, Belgium
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Canada
International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna, Austria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France