As Ben Ali’s regime falls, 3 Tunisian journalists freed

New York, January 14, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is heartened by news reports that three jailed Tunisian journalists have been freed as the repressive regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fallen. CPJ calls on the new interim Tunisian government to release one other journalist believed to be still in custody. 

Bloggers Azyz Amamy and Slim Amamou, arrested on January 7, were reported released from Mornaguia Prison on Thursday shortly after Ben Ali made his final speech to the nation. During the speech, Ben Ali belatedly acknowledged his government’s repression, saying that censorship of conventional and online media would come to an immediate end. Instead, his long regime ended.

Nizar Ben Hasan, a correspondent for Radio Kalima, detained by presidential security forces Tuesday in the coastal town of Chebba, was freed today, according to his news organization. Ben Hasan had been arrested while trying to cover street protests in Chebba.

One other journalist is believed to remain in custody, according to CPJ research. Fahem Boukadous, a correspondent for the satellite television station Al-Hiwar al-Tunisi and a contributor to the news website Al-Badeel, is imprisoned on a four-year term on charges of “belonging to a criminal association” and spreading materials “likely to harm public order.” He was arrested on July 12, 2010, after an appeals court upheld a conviction for his coverage of 2008 labor protests in the Gafsa mining region.

“The new interim government in Tunisia has a great opportunity to illustrate that it is genuine about its promises to break with the past,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Releasing Fahem Boukadous would certainly go a long way toward illustrating to the people of Tunisia that business as usual is no longer the order of the day.”