New York, July 19, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the apparent censorship of Al-Mawkif, an opposition weekly belonging to the Progressive Democratic Party in Tunisia. Rachid Khechana, left, Al-Mawkif
editor-in-chief, told CPJ that 10,000 copies of the newspaper’s Friday edition disappeared from newsstands, apparently confiscated by security agents.
Although a small number
of copies are circulated directly to party members, the paper is available mainly
through newsstands. Tunisian authorities issued a statement on Sunday flatly
denying that they had confiscated copies of the weekly, but the paper’s editors
noted that newsstand vendors had witnessed plainclothes agents seizing copies
of the paper.
readers of our paper did not find copies of [Friday’s] issue either in the capital,
Tunis, or in other counties,” Managing Editor Munji Al-Lawz told Elaf
, an Arabic
online daily based in London. He added that "the newspaper was confiscated
without a judicial decision that would justify the confiscation, and without
even a notice from the officials responsible for the confiscation, which would
explain the reasons behind this action."
told CPJ that the censored edition included predictions that the government
would amend the constitution to allow President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to seek
re-election in 2014. The Tunisian Constitution now imposes an age limit of 75
for presidential office-seekers; Ben Ali will be 78 in 2014. Al-Mawkif
published a Progressive
Democratic Party statement denouncing the idea of a "presidency for
life" and proposing a two-term limit for service.
also published an article about
Fahem Boukadous, a critical Tunisian journalist who was arrested
last week. Boukadous suffers from acute asthma, raising concerns about his
health in custody.
call on Tunisian authorities to ensure that Al-Mawkif
is published and
distributed without interference," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa
Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. "We are alarmed by the continuing
violations and harassment of critical journalists and newspapers in Tunisia".
had been censored once before
this year, Khechana said. On March 27, authorities confiscated copies of an
issue that included coverage of a Human Rights Watch report on abuses in
Tunisia, he said.
On July 9, the U.S. State Department expressed
its concern about the press freedom situation in Tunisia. Mark
Toner, a spokesman for the State Department, told reporters that
"the United States is deeply concerned about the decline in political
freedoms, notably severe restrictions on freedom of expression, in Tunisia.”