New York, April 21, 2000—Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik today entered the 19th day of a hunger strike launched on April 3 to protest the Tunisian government’s ban on his travel outside the country.
For the past two and a half weeks, Ben Brik has subsisted on a solution of water mixed with sugar. He has lost approximately 33 pounds (15 kg.) and is in stable but weak condition, according to CPJ’s sources in Tunis.
Ben Brik is conducting his strike in Tunis at the headquarters of the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT), a local human-rights organization of which he is a founding member. Ben Brik had previously been striking at the offices of the independent publishing house Editions Aloes. On April 10, however, Tunisian authorities imposed a three-month closure order on the publishing house, and evacuated its premises.
The government raid on Editions Aloes came one day after some 100 people met there to express solidarity with Ben Brik and to discuss government restrictions on press freedoms in Tunisia.
Ben Brik launched his hunger strike in protest against the travel ban imposed on him by government authorities a year ago. Last April, Tunisian airport police confiscated Ben Brik’s passport as he was about to embark on a planned trip to Switzerland.
Over the last two years, Ben Brik has been subjected to various forms of harassment in response to his coverage of human rights abuses in Tunisia for European news organizations. He has come under intense police surveillance, his phone and fax lines have been cut repeatedly, and he has been physically assaulted by men believed to be undercover police agents.
On April 3, a state prosecutor in Tunis summoned Ben Brik to hear charges of publishing false information and offending public institutions. The accusations stem from articles about human-rights abuses in Tunisia that he had published in the European newspapers La Tribune de Genve and Le Courier. The case is currently adjourned and a date has not yet specified for the next hearing. If convicted, Ben Brik faces up to nine years in prison in addition to unspecified fines.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS URGING THE TUNISIAN GOVERNMENT TO END THEIR HARASSMENT OF TAOUFIK BEN BRIK AND RETURN HIS PASSPORT IMMEDIATELY. SEND APPEALS TO:
His Excellency Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
President of the Republic of Tunisia
c/o His Excellency Noureddine Mejdoub
1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
E-Mail: [email protected]
Please copy CPJ on all appeals.