Newsletter No 13 10 January 2006
 
Press Freedom:
IFJ Protests to President Ben Ali over its Web Site Ban

The International Federation of Journalists protested on 4 January to the Tunisian government over the blocking of the Federation’s web site in Tunisia. In recent weeks, following the World Summit on the Information Society in November when the IFJ sharply criticized restrictions on Internet use and harassment of human rights activists, the IFJ web site has been unobtainable.

“The Tunisian authorities continue to show intolerance of independent opinion and free expression,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “But they are seriously mistaken if they think this will discourage journalists from expressing their solidarity with colleagues in Tunisia.”

In a letter to President Ben Ali, the IFJ says that all obstacles on the use of Internet technology and access to information should be lifted, except where they are in line with international standards which may limit access to anti-social sites, covering, for instance, child pornography or incitement to violence.

“The IFJ site is an information point for journalists around the world – including many in Tunisia and other Arab countries. Reporters want information about developments in the region and want to express their solidarity with colleagues,” said White.

“It is impossible not to conclude that the sole reason for this ban is a political act of spite to penalize the Federation for defending the rights of all journalists in Tunisia and for its criticism of the authorities,” he said. In an address to governments at the World Summit in Tunis, White had said that harassment of rights activists and Tunisian restrictions on access to the Internet cast a shadow over the whole summit process.

He appealed to the President to lift the ban on access to the site immediately and reiterated demands that all restrictions on access to the Internet should be withdrawn.

“If not, Tunisia will be once again be seen to be setting a poor example to the Arab world where people who yearn for more freedom and democracy are pressing their demands for reform,” he said.