Since self-censorship has become virtually universal, the government has little cause to actively harass journalists. But when journalists do cross the boundaries of accepted journalism, authorities are quick to respond. On June 18, the Ministry of Interior summoned Taoufik Ben Brik, a correspondent for the Paris-based daily La Croix, following the publication of an article about police harassment. An official accused Ben Brik of writing "subversive" material and urged him to stop working as a journalist.
The local press has not been the only target of state reprisal. This year, authorities maintained their hold on the flow of information, once again banning foreign publications entering the county. The London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, for example, estimates that the paper was banned an average of three to five times a month. Issues of the French-language Le Monde were also confiscated during the year.
Along with its muzzling of the press, the government oversees one of the more sophisticated public relations programs, extolling Ben Ali for his purported human rights achievements. A government-run website, www.amnesty-tunisia.org, proclaims that Tunisia has "distinguish[ed] itself in a striking way by its exemplary work in the domains of Human Rights, freedom of expression and public liberties." Authorities have gone to even greater lengths to protect their image by banning Internet access to websites that contain information critical of the regime, like that of Amnesty International.
At year's end, Hamadi Jebali and Abdellah Zouari, journalists with the now-defunct weekly Al-Fajr who have been imprisoned since 1991, remained behind bars.
*This report covers the period January-December 1998
Included are materials on Tunisia's ongoing repression of the press:
- An article titled "Enough is Enough," written by a Tunisian journalist, describing the restrictive environment for journalists in Tunisia;
- CPJ's 1998 report on press freedom in Tunisia;
- A chronology of attacks on the press in Tunisia, documented by CPJ since 1992"
- CPJ's 1999 10 Enemies of the Press;
- CPJ's April 30, 1999, letter to President Ben Ali, protesting the authorities' continued harassment of journalist Taoufik Ben Brik.