Police stand guard as protesters demonstrate against Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis in October 2021. Police raided and searched the home of journalist Samir Sassi in Tunis and arrested him on January 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

Al-Jazeera journalist Samir Sassi arrested on undisclosed charges in Tunisia

New York, January 4, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that Tunisian authorities arrested journalist Samir Sassi and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

On Wednesday, January 3, police raided and searched the home of Sassi, a reporter at Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, in the capital Tunis and arrested him, according to news reports and the outlet’s Tunisia bureau chief, Lotfi Hajji, who added that the police confiscated Sassi’s laptop, his phone, several books, and the phones of his wife and children.

As of Thursday evening, authorities had not filed any charges or disclosed the reason for Sassi’s arrest, according to those sources. He is detained at a police station in Cité Ettadhamen, a municipality near Tunis, pending investigation.

“By arresting two journalists in one week, President Kais Saied is making it clear that his government has zero tolerance for press freedom and independent journalism,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour in Washington, D.C. “Tunisian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Al-Jazeera journalist Samir Sassi and IFM journalist Zied el-Heni, and cease harassing journalists for their work.”

On December 28, police arrested el-Heni, a prominent columnist and political commentator for the daily “Émission Impossible” show on the independent radio station IFM, in Tunis. On January 1, a court charged him with “insulting others on social media” and transferred him to prison. El-Heni faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

CPJ’s email to the Tunisian Ministry of Interior did not receive a response.