New York, February 14, 2023 – Tunisian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Noureddine Boutar and allow journalists and media workers to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Monday, February 13, police raided and searched the home of Boutar, the director of the local independent radio station and news website Mosaique FM, in the capital Tunis, and arrested him, according to a statement by the outlet and news reports. Authorities questioned Boutar about the outlet’s operations, including about who chooses guests and oversees the radio station’s program hosts.
As of Tuesday evening, authorities have not filed any charges or disclosed the reason for Boutar’s arrest, according to Hajer Tlili, a Mosaique FM reporter who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. He is detained at the headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist National Brigade in el-Gorjani district in Tunis.
“The recent arrest of journalist Noureddine Boutar is a clear attack on the press sector in Tunisia,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Tunisian authorities should immediately release Boutar without charge and end the culture of harassment that plagues the country’s journalists and media outlets.”
Tunisian police also arrested two prominent opponents of President Kais Saied on Monday as part of a surge in arrests of government critics. Mosaique FM frequently criticizes the president during its programs, according to the outlet’s statement.
Since Saied dismissed the prime minister and froze parliament on July 25, 2021, there has been a significant increase in the number of journalists arrested on charges unrelated to the country’s media laws, according to a joint 2022 report to the United Nations by CPJ, the D.C.-based rights group Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and the local trade union National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists.
CPJ emailed the Tunisian Ministry of Interior for comment but did not receive any response.