Hosting the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
in Tunisia, a country where repression of human rights - in particular
freedom of expression - is rampant, remains controversial. Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the UN, stated that the holding of the WSIS
in Tunisia offered "a good opportunity for the Government of Tunisia to
address various human rights concerns, including those related to
freedom of opinion and expression." More than one year after the WSIS was held in Tunisia, the Tunisian government has clearly failed to do this, according to members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG).
The 16 members of the IFEX-TMG are appealing to incoming UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
to remind the Government of Tunisia of its international obligations.
“Tunisia, since being an elected member of the newly-created United Nations
Council of Human Rights, has an additional obligation to respect its
international commitments in the field of freedom of expression,” say
the members of the TMG.
“Sadly, the state of freedom of expression in Tunisia is as poor, if not poorer, in early 2007 as it was in late 2005 when the WSIS was held in Tunis,” said Carl Morten Iversen, Secretary General of Norwegian PEN, and Chair of the IFEX-TMG.
Members of the TMG remain deeply
concerned by the ongoing harassment of writers, journalists, editors
and human rights defenders in Tunisia. Consequently, members of the TMG
are once more calling the Tunisian government to bring an immediate end
to the persecution of writers, journalists, and human rights defenders,
including Sihem Bensedrine, Naziha Rjiba, Moncef Marzouki, Lotfi Hajji and Abdallah Zouari. In addition, they are repeating their plea for the immediate and unconditional release of internet writer and lawyer Mohammed Abbou who is currently serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for criticising Tunisian President Ben Ali in an article posted on the Internet.
“To respect its international commitments, the Tunisian
government should also release all banned books and publications,
should stop censoring books, and should put and end to the blocking of
websites,” said Ana Maria Cabanellas, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) .
TMG members also highlighted
concerns about the Tunisian government’s censorship of deadly clashes
between security forces and armed groups in the end of December 2006
and in early January 2007 in the Southern suburbs of Tunis.
The IFEX-TMG therefore calls on the
Tunisian authorities to allow writers, journalists, web loggers and
publishers to express themselves freely without fear of persecution or
imprisonment in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Tunisia is a signatory.
Members of the IFEX-TMG are:
- Arabic Human Rights Information Network (HRinfo), Egypt
- ARTICLE 19, UK
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
- Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
- Index on Censorship, UK
- International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
- International Federation of Library Associations
- Institutions (IFLA), The Netherlands
- International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
- International Publishers’ Association (IPA), Switzerland
- Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
- 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), USA
- Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), UK
For further information, contact
Carl Morten Iversen, Norwegian PEN
Tel: + 47 22479220
Cellphone: + 47 926 88 023
or Alexis Krikorian, IPA
Tel: +41 22 346 30 18