Zouhair Yahyaoui

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On SaturdayTunis airport customs officials confiscated two copies of CPJ’s annual report, Attacks on the Press, as well as five copies of the Arabic-language translation of the Middle East and North Africa section of the book from Tunisian rights lawyer Mohamed Abbou and journalist Lotfi Hidouri on their return from Morocco, the two men told CPJ. 

My country’s government brags unabashedly that it has not passed any laws that require government authorization to establish an electronic publication or a Web site or a blog on the Internet. Those that cheerlead for this government rely on this point to propagate the lie they call “the freedom to publish electronically” in Tunisia.
In the Middle East and North Africa, where political change occurs slowly, blogging has becomes a serious medium for social and political commentary as well as a target of government suppression. By Mohamed Abdel Dayem


New York, March 14, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalist mourns the death of cyber-dissident Zouhair Yahyaoui, who died of a heart attack on Sunday, March 13.

Yahyaoui, founder of the Internet forum TUNeZINE, spent 18 months in prison in retaliation for his criticism of Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. He was released in November 2003 and remained in Tunisia to run his site.

For nearly two decades, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has quietly run one of the region's most efficient police states, stifling the media with an array of Soviet-style tactics. Even allies of Ben Ali, such as U.S. President George W. Bush, expressed concern in 2004 about the troubling lack of press freedom. On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the U.S. State Department criticized the Tunisian government for "censorship [and] harassment" of journalists and its failure "to investigate attacks on the media."

The Internet’s Role in Media Freedom
By Mick Stern

The Boston Globe
December 14, 2003

An online journalist endures brutal imprisonment in Tunisia-and lives to post again.
By Amanda Watson-Boles

CPJ Update
April 16, 2004

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists

War and political violence drew hundreds of journalists to the Middle East in 2003 for what proved to be a series of relentlessly dangerous assignments. The U.S.-led war in Iraq was one of the most heavily covered conflicts in modern history--and one of the deadliest for journalists. Thirteen reporters died from hostile acts, both during and after the conflict, while several more died from illnesses or accidents. The sources of danger were varied and often unpredictable. At least four were killed by U.S. fire, three on the same day, April 8, when the shelling of Baghdad's Palestine Hotel killed two journalists and an air strike on the Baghdad bureau of the Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera killed another. Four journalists embedded with U.S. troops were killed by Iraqi fire. Still others were killed by land mines or died in suicide bombings.
Since President Zine Al-Abdine Ben Ali seized power in 1987, Tunisian authorities have crafted a nearly perfect system to censor and suppress the media. The few courageous voices remaining in the country succeed in circumventing these controls mainly by publishing on the Internet, but Tunisian authorities do not hesitate to block their Web sites, harass them, and even imprison them. Ben Ali's 16-year reign is almost certain to continue; the government held a referendum in May 2002 in which officials said 99.52 percent of voters approved constitutional changes that will allow him to run for a fourth term as president in 2004. Opposition figures and other critics called the referendum a sham.

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