CPJ Alarmed by Arrest of Tunisian Journalist Taoufik Ben Brik

New York, May 24, 1999-The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its alarm over the arrest today of journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, a freelance reporter working for a number of European newspapers, including the Paris-based daily La Croix.

At around 11:00 a.m. local time, Ben Brik was arrested without warrant by Tunisian authorities in the capital Tunis. He was held for about three hours and released at 2:00 p.m. Earlier in the day, police surrounded Ben Brik’s home and attempted to arrest him. He reportedly refused to accompany the police because they did not have a warrant for his arrest. He then fled his home and took refuge with his brother before being arrested.

To CPJ’s knowledge, authorities have not announced a reason for the arrest, although the incident occurred after a series of escalating attacks against Ben Brik in recent weeks in apparent response to his published criticism of human rights violations in Tunisia, his coverage of sensitive domestic issues, and his attempts to publicize incidents of harassment directed against him.

On May 20, Ben Brik was violently assaulted outside his home by three chain-wielding men believed to be plainclothes policemen. Over the past year, Ben Brik has been the target of repeated harassment by Tunisian authorities and presumed state agents. On April 28, he was prevented from leaving the country for a planned trip to Switzerland after police at Tunis-Carthage Airport confiscated his passport. He has been summoned to the Interior Ministry for questioning over his published work and his efforts to publicize his harassment. His telephone and fax lines have been regularly interrupted, his wife’s car was vandalized in front of their home in January, and he has received anonymous threatening phone calls.

“This intimidation and violence must stop immediately,” said CPJ’s executive director, Ann K. Cooper. “We urge President Ben Ali to take all necessary measures to prevent further attacks and ensure Taoufik Ben Brik’s safety.”

On May 3, 1999, World Press Freedom Day, CPJ, for the second consecutive year, named Ben Ali one of the world’s 10 worst Enemies of the Press for his efforts in transforming Tunisiaís once respectable press into one of the most restricted in the Arab world.

CPJ’s recently released briefing document, “Tunisia: A Decade of Stifling the Press,” is now available on CPJ’s online.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom around the world.

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