Boltanski, a reporter with the French daily Libération, was beaten and stabbed by four men near his hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Tunis, which was heavily patrolled by police. He needed several stitches in a stab wound in his back. Boltanski was in Tunisia to investigate human rights abuses in the run-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), an international conference on the future of the Internet, which opened November 16.
On November 10, Libération published an article in which Boltanski described how human rights activists, demonstrating in solidarity with several leading opposition figures on hunger strike, were beaten by Tunisian police in civilian clothing the previous week in Tunis. The Tunisian authorities denied the assault on the demonstrators took place. Boltanski also wrote that Tunisian authorities were nervous on the eve of WSIS because Western governments called on them to abide by their international commitment to promote and protect freedom of expression.
Boltanski said in an article in Libération his attackers blinded him with pepper spray and beat him until one of the assailants said in French, "It's enough." They took his cell phone, notebook, and personal belongings. Police outside his hotel and the nearby Czech embassy ignored his cries for help. He stumbled into the hotel, his clothing ripped and covered in blood, but police showed no concern, he said.
Boltanski filed a report with police who told him they had detained two suspects. He could not identify his attackers because he was blinded during the assault. Police provided no details of the arrests.
CPJ has documented numerous instances in which assailants presumed to be members of the country's secret police have frequently assaulted Tunisian journalists who have written critically of the government; however, attacks on foreign reporters are rare. CPJ was unaware of any cases in which assailants of journalists had been identified and prosecuted for their attacks.
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