May 31, 2000
His Excellency Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali
President of the Republic of Tunisia
c/o His Excellency Noureddine Mejdoub
1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
VIA FACSIMILE: 202-862-1858
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its deep concern for Noureddine Aouididi, a London-based Tunisian journalist whose family has been denied the right to travel outside Tunisia. We fear that these restrictions have been imposed in reprisal for Aouididi’s journalistic work.
Aouididi currently works for the London-based Al-Quds Press Agency. He has also worked for or contributed to a number of other publications in the United Kingdom, including Al-Quds al-Arabi, Al-Alam, and Al-Shahid al-Dawli. He was granted political asylum in the U.K. in 1997. The following year, a Tunisian court sentenced him to a life term in absentia for alleged “subversive” activities.
Over the years, members of Aouididi’s family, including his mother, brother, and sister, have been subjected to legal harassment and have been prevented from leaving Tunisia. These measures are thought to have been taken in response to Aouididi’s published criticisms of the Tunisian government.
Aouididi is currently in the 29th day of a hunger strike that he launched on May 2 to protest your government’s harassment of his family.
Earlier this month Your Excellency was quoted as saying that Tunisians have an “inalienable right” to bear passports and travel freely. It is in this spirit that we respectfully urge Your Excellency to ensure that Tunisian authorities immediately reverse these unreasonable restrictions on Aouididi’s family. As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, we find it deeply troubling that authorities are harassing Aouididi’s family in order to punish him for his journalistic work.
We urge you to lift these travel restrictions immediately and to ensure that no one in your administration abuses his or her authority in order to intimidate or punish the press.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to a prompt reply.
Ann K. Cooper