February 12, 2009
Mauril Bélanger, P.C., M.P., Co-Chair
Mobina Jaffer, Senator, Vice-Chair
Johanne Deschamps, M.P., Vice-Chair
Tel.: 1 613 992 7412
Fax: 1 613 992 3 674<
Dear members of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association,
Having learned of your coming visit to Tunisia, the Committee to Protect Journalists wishes to bring to your attention the Tunisian government's unrelenting harassment of independent journalists and its routine use of plainclothes police and the judiciary to retaliate against critical voices.
Our research shows that President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who celebrated his regime's 21st anniversary in November, has employed some of the most restrictive press tactics in the Arab world. CPJ detailed the government's long-term practices of official harassment, censorship, imprisonment, and assaults against independent journalists in a special report, The Smiling Oppressor, issued in September. Tunisian authorities continue to pursue these alarming and deeply repressive tactics. In January, the independent outlet Radio Kalima came under siege and its managing director, Omar Mestiri, was threatened with a knife by a police officer.
We call on you to raise these serious abuses of free expression during your meetings with Tunisian officials, and to encourage these officials to bring their legislation and actions in conformity with international standards. Thank your for your attention to this important situation.