Tunisia: Attacks of the Press 1992-1999


April 28, 1999
Taoufik Ben Brik, La Croix HARASSED

Ben Brik, a correspondent for the Paris-based daily La Croix, was prevented by Tunisian authorities from leaving the country for a planned trip to Switzerland after police at Tunis-Carthage Airport confiscated his passport, claiming that the document was missing a page and therefore Ben Brik could not travel. The police had apparently ripped out the page themselves before bringing it to Ben Brik’s attention. The officers then kept his passport and politely told the journalist that he should go to the Ministry of Interior on Thursday, April 29.

January 28, 1999
Taoufik Ben Brik,  La Croix HARASSED

The car of La Croix correspondent Ben Brik’s wife was vandalized by a group of five men who drove up in a Peugeot 405 automobile. They proceeded to smash the car’s windows and windshield and stole a baby seat from the car. Later that evening, Ben Brik received an anonymous phone call, informing him that “you haven’t seen anything yet.” The incident followed Ben Brik’s publication earlier that month of an article in the Swiss daily La Tribune de Genve titled, “Ben Ali’s Quest for New Mandate Faces Student Challenge.” The article discussed the recent release of seven students who had been arrested after protesting measures instituted by the Ministry of Higher Education, limiting the number of teaching positions for graduate students. Ben Brik has experienced other forms of aggravation: his telephone and fax lines have been regularly interrupted, making it difficult or impossible to receive or place calls, and he has received anonymous threatening phone calls.


June 18, 1998
Taoufik Ben Brik,  La Croix HARASSED

Two plainclothes police officers took Ben Brik, a correspondent for the Paris-based daily La Croix, to the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Tunis, where he was brought before Mohammad Ali Ganzoui, assistant to the Minister of Interior. Ganzoui accused Ben Brik of writing “subversive” material-a reference to a June 12 article carrying the double byline of Ben Brik and Julia Ficatier, a senior reporter for La Croix.

The article discussed police harassment in Tunisia, among other things, and told of arbitrary raids and searches of people’s homes. Ganzoui subsequently suggested that Ben Brik should think about leaving journalism and looking for another profession.

CPJ protested the harassment in a June 23 letter to Tunisian president Zine Abidine Ben Ali and urged that the Tunisian government allow journalists to express a diversity of opinion, including criticism of official policy, without fear of reprisal.


January 9, 1996
Kamel Labidi,  La Croix, United Press International HARASSED
Sihem Bensedrine,  Al-Mawqif HARASSED

Labidi, Tunis correspondent of the French daily La Croix, and Bensedrine, director of the weekly  l-Mawqif, were prevented from participating in the UNESCO/UN conference Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic Arab Press held in Sana’a, Yemen, from January 7-11. Tunisian authorities had confiscated their passports earlier, and refused to return them. In a joint communiquŽ with other press freedom groups, CPJ called on the Tunisian government to immediately return the journalists’ passports.


July15, 1994
 Al-Majalla CENSORED

The Saudi-owned, London-based weekly magazine Al-Majalla announced that the government had indefinitely banned it on the grounds that it “promotes extremist religious and political thinking.” The authorities were reportedly upset by the regular contributions of Fahmi Howeidi, a prominent Egyptian writer and Islamist.

April 6, 1994
 Science et Nature CENSORED

The monthly French environmental magazine Science et Nature was banned indefinitely. Its March edition contained an article about human rights violations in Tunisia.

April 2, 1994
 Libération CENSORED

A government paper published a piece titled “The Dignity of Tunisia and the Honor of Her People Before All,” which announced that the daily French newspaper Libération was banned due to its “openly hostile attitude.” The next day the decision was confirmed by the Tunisian Foreign Communications Agency (ATCE). Libération’s March 23 edition had already been banned in Tunisia. The issue featured an article written by a Tunisian intellectual about the absence of democracy in his country.

March 28, 1994
Kamel Labidi, Tunis-Afrique Presse (TAP),  La Croix, United Press International HARASSED

Labidi, Tunisia correspondent for the French daily La Croix, was dismissed from the Tunis-Afrique-Presse (TAP) agency and thus stripped of the privileges accorded to foreign press correspondents, such as a press card granting him access to national and international conferences held in Tunisia. The dismissal came shortly after he had published an interview with Moncef Marzouki, former head of the Tunisian Human Rights League, who was arrested first in February after announcing his candidacy in the presidential elections and then again on March 24. The agency claimed that Labidi had violated one of its statutes by working for the foreign media without TAP authorization. Appeals made to the Information Ministry by La Croix and United Press International on behalf of Labidi requesting that his accreditation be reinstated have been rejected.

March 18, 1994

The French daily Le Monde was banned for an indefinite period. Michel Deure, a correspondent who was reporting from the country at the time, was informed of the ban by the Tunisian Foreign Communications Agency (ATCE) just two days before the presidential and legislative elections were held on March 20. A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry a few days later affirmed Tunisia’s commitment to freedom of the press, but added that the country “cannot accept that, in the name of this freedom, certain media commit extremes and violate the ethics of their profession.” The statement referred to Le Monde as being persistently “hostile and disparaging in its attitude toward a country known for its tolerance.”

February 17, 1994
Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) CENSORED

The Tunis correspondent of KUNA was ordered to stop working, and the phone lines at the KUNA bureau were disconnected after the agency broadcast a statement by the leader of the outlawed Tunisian Islamic movement al-Nahda. In that statement, Rachid Ghannouchi, declared his support for presidential candidate Moncef Marzouki, former director of the Tunisian Human Rights League. Marzouki announced his candidacy on February 5 and was arrested by the authorities five days later. On Sunday, February 20, KUNA officials reported that the Tunis Bureau had been authorized to reopen and that its phone lines had been restored.

February 17, 1994
Alfred Hermida, BBC EXPELLED

Hermida, the North Africa correspondent for the BBC, was expelled by the authorities after they had revoked his press accreditation. According to a BBC report, the Tunisian government issued a statement that Hermida had devoted too much coverage to “defamatory and baseless rumours spread from abroad by fugitive terrorists belonging to the fundamentalist sphere.” Apparently the authorities were annoyed by his coverage of the arrest of Moncef Marzouki, former director of the Tunisian Human Rights League. On February 5, Marzouki announced his candidacy for president in the elections that were to be held on March 20. Five days later, shortly before he was to hold a press conference, Marzouki was arrested.


December 1, 1992
Antenne 2 CENSORED
The government blocked newscasts of Antenne 2, France’s government- owned channel, after the network broadcast a story about the criminal charges brought against President Ben Ali’s brother in a French court.

November 1992
 Libération CENSORED

Copies of the November 16, 17, and 19 issues of Libération, the French daily newspaper, were stopped from entering the country at Tunis airport. These issues contained reports of a scandal involving President Ben Ali’s brother.

June 12, 1992
Farida Ayari, Radio France International HARASSED

Ayari, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI), was detained by authorities upon her arrival at Tunis-Carthage airport. Ms. Ayari, a Tunisian national, had broadcast many reports for RFI that were critical the government’s human rights record. She was released the next day after the intervention of the French government.

August 28, 1992
Abdallah Zouari,  Al-Fajr LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED

Jebali, editor of Al-Fajr, organ of the banned Islamist party Al-Nahda, was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison by the Bouchoucha military court. He was tried along with 279 others accused of membership in Al-Nahda. He was convicted of “aggression with the intent of changing the nature of the state” and “membership in an illegal organization.” During his testimony, Jebali denied the charges against him and displayed to the court evidence that he had been tortured while in custody. In January 1991 Jebali had been sentenced to one year in prison after Al-Fajr published an article calling for the abolition of military courts in Tunisia. Zouari, another journalist with Al-Fajr, was tried with Jebali and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He had been in detention since February 1991 when he was charged with “association with an unrecognized association” (Al-Nahda). International human rights groups monitoring the proceedings concluded that the trial fell far below international standards of justice.

November 27, 1992
 Libération CENSORED

 Libération, a French daily newspaper, was banned from appearing in Tunisia. Three issues of the paper had been confiscated earlier in the month because they contained reports of a financial scandal involving President Ben Ali’s brother.

November 1, 1992
Le Monde Diplomatique CENSORED

The November issue of the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique was banned for unknown reasons.

Included are materials on Tunisia’s ongoing repression of the press: