Tunisia: Serious concerns for World Summit on the Information Society



IFEX Press release
1 February 2005

A joint monitoring visit to Tunisia undertaken by members of the
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) has found serious
cause for continuing concern about the current state of freedom of
expression and of civil liberties in Tunisia, including gross
restrictions on freedom of the press, media, publishing and the Internet.

The visit, which took place from 14 to 19 January 2005, was the first of
the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group and was organised in preparation for
the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a United Nations
intergovernmental conference to be held in Tunis in November 2005. The
purpose of the visit was to evaluate the state of freedom of expression
in Tunisia and to assess the conditions for participation in the Summit.

The delegation, consisting of representatives of Egyptian Organisation
for Human Rights (EOHR), International PEN Writers in Prison Committee
(WiPC), International Publishers Association (IPA), Norwegian PEN, World
Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and the World Press
Freedom Committee (WPFC), met with Tunisian writers, publishers and
human rights organisations as well as government officials and
government-sponsored agencies.

The delegation found serious cause for continuing concern in the
following areas:

1. Blocking of websites, including news and information websites.
2. Blocking of the distribution of books and publications.
3. Restrictions on the freedom of association, including the right of
organisations to be legally established and to hold meetings.
4. Restrictions on movement of human rights activists together with
police surveillance, intimidation and interception of communications.
5. Lack of pluralism in broadcast ownership, with only one private
broadcaster.
6. Press censorship and lack of diversity of content in newspapers.
7. Imprisonment of individuals for their opinions and media activities.
8. Use of torture by the security services with impunity.

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group is preparing a full report on the
current state of freedom of expression in Tunisia with recommendations
for improvement. The report, to be published at the next preparatory
committee meeting of the WSIS, will provide indicators for monitoring
freedom of expression in Tunisia in the run up to the World Summit. The
WSIS Preparatory Committee is to meet in Geneva 17-25 February 2005.

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group consists of:
ARTICLE 19
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) Egyptian
Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR)
Index on Censorship
International PEN Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC)
International Publishers Association (IPA)
Journaliste en Danger (JED)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Norwegian PEN
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) World
Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)


For further information, contact EOHR, tel: +20 2 363 6811/362 0467;
WiPC, tel: +44 207 253 3226; IPA, tel: +41 22 346 30 18; Norwegian PEN,
tel: + 47 22479220; AMARC, tel: +1 514 982 0351; WPFC, tel: +1 703 715 9811



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