Journalists attacked and threatened in Tunisia

Several Tunisian journalists reported being harassed, threatened, and attacked during the three-day protests following the July 25, 2013, assassination of opposition leader Mohamed al-Barahmi, according to local journalists and news reports.

On July 25, 2013, private satellite channel Tunisia News Network reported that its crew had been prevented from covering a protest outside the house of al-Barahmi. The channel broadcast a video showing some protesters saying the crew was not allowed to cover the protest because it was affiliated with Islamists.

In a press conference on July 26, 2013, Prime Minister Ali al-Arady threatened to take unspecified action against private satellite channel Al-Hiwar al-Tunisia, according to news reports. Bokhdra Hage, a correspondent for the channel, told CPJ that when he asked the prime minister for his comment on calls for civil disobedience by al-Barahmi’s opposition party, he said, “Your channel calls to violence, and we will take action against this channel.”

Yasen al-Khragy, correspondent for the private Al-Tunisia channel, told CPJ that he was attacked by members and supporters of Ansar al-Sharia, a conservative religious group, on July 26, 2013, while covering an anti-government demonstration on Habib Bourguiba Street. Khragy said that another journalist, Ahmed al-Sahrawy, correspondent of Al-Motawast private satellite channel, was also beaten by members of the same group while covering a protest in front of Al-Monestiry radio station in Al-Monestir city. The channel reported the attack on their Facebook page but did not offer further details.

News accounts reported that police on July 27, 2013, physically assaulted at least nine journalists covering a sit-in outside the National Constituent Assembly. The nature of the attack was not reported but the report mentioned that some of them were hospitalized at Charles Nicole hospital. The accounts said that the security officials also tried to confiscate the journalists’ equipment.

The harassed journalists included Ayman Rezgui, correspondent of the online news website Cities Web News; Yassin Alfogala and Iman Bin Abdullah, both reporters for the Tunisia News Network channel; Malak al-Yazidand and Anis Ben Abdallah, correspondents for private channel Nasme; Nizar al-Namosy, a freelance journalist; Abd Alha Shamikh, a photographer for online TV channel Astrolab; and Foad Mubarak, a reporter for Al-Tunisia TV channel. The reports also said that on Friday, security agents beat Saida al-Trabolsy, correspondent for Al-Hiwar al-Tunisia private channel, and obstructed him from covering the protests. The reports did not offer further details.

In a statement sent to the Tunis Center for Press Freedom, Muhammad Ali al-Araoui, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, apologized for the attacks on the journalists. He said the ministry would investigate.

In an unrelated episode, two journalists reported on July 28, 2013, that Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou had told them that their lives were in danger, but did not say how he knew. Sofiène Ben Farhat, a journalist for the French daily La Presse de Tunisie, said he was in danger because of his criticism of the Al-Nahda ruling party. Sofian Ben Hamida, a presenter for Nesma TV, announced on radio Mosaique FM that he had been warned of the same threat. Both journalists said they had been told the Interior Ministry would provide them with protection.