In prison, Tunisian journalist’s health is worsening

New York, February 25, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Tunisian authorities to immediately release journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, who is serving a six-month jail sentence, so that he can receive the medical treatment he needs.

Ben Brik’s wife, Azza Zarrad, told CPJ that the journalist was in danger of dying due to high cholesterol combined with his diabetes and a preexisting hormonal disorder. She added that Ben Brik had asked the prison authorities to inform his family of his worsening condition so the family could adjust his medication, but that the authorities had failed to do so until Wednesday, after Zarrad visited her husband in prison.

“The continued detention of Taoufik Ben Brik is inhumane,” said CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney. “The authorities have known for a long time that he is a sick man. We hold the Tunisian government responsible for Ben Brik’s welfare behind bars.”

Ben Brik, a well-known contributor to French newspapers and one of the top critics of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was charged in November 2009 with assault, property damage, and violating public morality in connection with a purported attack on a woman. The journalist has denied the allegations and said they were fabricated in reprisal for his critical reporting on the president.

“By denying my husband’s request to inform us of his need for medical care, the authorities only proved their determination to push him to his death,” his wife said. “I don’t know how long he will be able to sustain these conditions.”