December 31, 2008--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the intimidation
of Tunisian journalists who tried to cover efforts Tuesday by the opposition
Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) to demonstrate against Israeli attacks on Gaza. Two journalists
were assaulted and three faced harassment in Tunis, according to several CPJ interviews.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Lotfi Hajji told CPJ that an agent
punched him in the face at the headquarters of the PDP, where a march was
supposed to commence. He said he suffered minor cuts and that his eyeglasses were
broken. Mohamed Hamrouni, who writes for the PDP-affiliated newspaper Al-Mawkif
and contributes to the Qatari newspaper Al-Arab, was also roughed up
when plainclothes police dispersed the crowd attempting to start the protest
march, Hajji told CPJ.
"We are troubled by the insistence of Tunisian authorities
on stifling the efforts of independent journalists to report on legitimate news
stories," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem,
CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program
coordinator. "Harassment, arbitrary violence against reporters and censorship,
unfortunately the norm in Tunisia,
Security agents also blocked Ismail Dbara, a freelance contributor
to the online news site Elaph,
from reaching downtown Tunis
where a march was to take place, according to local journalists. Agents
confiscated his cell phone and wallet, they said. Sufyan al-Shurabi, editor and
writer for a weekly paper affiliated with the opposition Al-Tajdeed party, was also prevented
from reaching Tunis'
main downtown artery, journalists said.
Lotfi Hidouri, contributor to the news Web site Kalima
correspondent for Al-Quds Press, said three unmarked police cars
were deployed outside his home for about three hours on Tuesday and, later, a
marked police vehicle took their place. Hidouri said he did not intend to
report on the PDP demonstration, but he believed the agents were deployed there
to intimidate him and bar him from covering any demonstrations. Earlier this
month, Hidouri noted, authorities detained him for 24 hours and barred him from
traveling to a journalism conference in Beirut.