Tunisia arrests three journalists over nude photo

New York, February 16, 2012–Three Tunisian journalists were arrested Wednesday for publishing a nude photo in a Tunisian daily, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to release them immediately.

Nasreddine Bin Said, owner and publisher of the daily Attounissia, which covers politics, culture, and sports, was arrested along with Editor-in-Chief Al-Habib al-Quizani and the editor of the paper’s world section, Hedi Hidhri, on charges of disrespecting public morality, news reports said. The daily had printed an image on the front page of Wednesday’s paper of German model Lena Gercke posing naked with her boyfriend Sami Khedira, a German-Tunisian soccer player. The photo was a reprint of the March 2012 cover of the German edition of GQ magazine.

The three journalists are being held in Bouchoucha prison in Tunis’ outskirts pending trial, news reports said. This is the first incident CPJ has documented of journalists being arrested since the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown last year.

“We are concerned that once again Tunisian journalists are behind bars for what they publish,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We call upon the authorities to release all three detainees immediately.”

A journalist at Attounissia told The Associated Press that the newspaper had received phone calls with threats to burn down the premises, which are being guarded by police, the news agency reported.  

CPJ has documented other anti-press violations in Tunisia since the fall of Ben Ali’s regime. In January, CPJ documented assaults on three journalists who were covering demonstrations in Tunis.