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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JANUARY 5, 2004
Posted: January 29, 2004

Sihem Bensedrine, Kalima

Bensedrine, editor of the online magazine Kalima, which is banned in Tunisia, was attacked by an unknown male assailant in the presence of two other men as she exited her home in Tunis.

Bensedrine told CPJ that after walking about 50 feet (15 meters) away from her home, she was confronted by 3 men whom she did not know. One of the men approached her and immediately began punching her in the face and chest. She said that during the assault, her attacker insulted her, using obscene language. Bensedrine went to a local hospital the following day for treatment. She said that she suffered a bruised eye and a split lip as a result of the attack.

Bensedrine told CPJ that she had seen the two other men who did not participate in the attack earlier that morning near her home, but did not think anything of their presence at the time. Bensedrine said that immediately following the attack, the two men approached and told her to ignore the man who beat her because he was just mentally disabled. They referred to her assailant as Farid.

After Bensedrine's lawyers lodged a complaint with state prosecutors she was summoned to the police station. There, officers alleged that a young, mentally disabled man from her neighborhood named Farid was behind the attack. She said that Farid, who was at the station, was indeed a mentally disabled man from her neighborhood, but that he was not her attacker. Bensedrine said that she told the officers that she had never met her attacker prior to the assault, and that he was not this man at the station.

Bensedrine told CPJ that from the style of the attack and the tactics used, she believes that political police that were behind the attack. On January 7, Agence-France Presse quoted a source from the Interior Ministry saying, in response to the attack, that "there is no such a thing as ‘political police' in Tunisia."