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Published on August 25th, 2009 | by Impunity Watch Archive

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Shift in Power in Tunisia’s Journalist Union Causes Concern

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TUNIS, Tunisia– On August 19, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) announced that a group of pro-government reporters in Tunisia have taken control of the largest Tunisian union for journalists only two months before the general election. 

RWB stated their concern for the independence of the national union of journalists, and stated that this change does not “bode well” for the fairness of the upcoming election. 

Tunisia’s current president, Zine El Abdine Ben Ali, will be seeking a fifth term in this election. He has been in power since a bloodless coup in 1987.  In 2002, Ben Ali challenged the constitution so that he could have more time in office. He has also continued to poll ninety-percent in elections.

The new union president Neji Bghouri stated that he believes that the government took over an organization that was meant to be independent. The new president of the journalists’ union denies any government involvement with the vote that resulted in his placement.

These alleged problems with the press only add to several other human rights violations that human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) reported on August 20. 

Amnesty International’s report documents continued abuse in the name of counter-terrorism and security. AI’s focus surrounds the continued reports of mistreatment and ‘pervasive’ torture in Tunisian detention centers. 

The report also criticizes other countries that continue to return prisoners to Tunisia against the prisoners’ wills, and with full knowledge of likely mistreatment.  Extraditing a person to a country where it is known they are likely to face mistreatment, a practice sometimes called ‘Extraordinary Rendition,’ is a violation of the Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.  

Amnesty has called for the immediate end to torture and a clampdown on mistreatment and unlawful ‘security’ measures used in Tunisian detention centers.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Tunisia Continues Human Rights Abuses in the Name of National Security – 20 August 2009

Afrique en Linge – Tunisian Journalists Change Leadership– 19 August 2009

BBC – Tunisia Reporter Move ‘Bodes Ill’ – 19 August 2009

Reuters – Row as Tunisia Journalist Picks Pro- Government Boss – 16 August 2009

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