Officer threatens managing editor with a knife

New York, January 29, 2009–A Tunisian police officer today threatened a journalist at knife point, according to local journalists, prompting the Committee to Protect Journalists to call for his immediate suspension.

The unidentified officer brandished a knife while threatening Omar Mestiri, managing editor of the Web magazine Kalima, according to a Kalima journalist who spoke to CPJ. Mestiri was threatened after he left his office building, which has been under siege since Tuesday. Plainclothes police are surrounding the building, which is residential and commercial. It houses Radio Kalima, a new station that was launched on Monday, as well as the Kalima Web site and two human rights groups.

Tunisian authorities must immediately end the intimidation of these journalists and bring the siege of the media facilities to a close,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The police officer who threatened Omar Mestiri was acting under color of authority and therefore the Tunisian government is implicated in this deplorable incident. The officer involved must be identified and suspended pending a complete and thorough investigation.”

On Tuesday, radio journalist Dhafer Otay, who also lives in the building, was detained and questioned for four hours before being released. He was not charged but was told not to return to the building.

A phone call to Tunisia’s embassy in Washington for comment today was not immediately returned.