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IFJ backs journalists' strike against violence and press gag in Tunisia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has supported the decision to take strike action by members of the Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens (SNJT), an IFJ affiliate, in protest over the attempts to censor media coverage of month-long riots over corruption and unemployment which have claimed 21 lives so far.

"Journalists in Tunisia are right to show solidarity with citizens and to oppose violent repression of the people's right to express their legitimate concerns," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, on Wednesday. "The government clampdown on media has failed to silence public protests over corruption and the jobless crisis highlights just how the current regime is out of touch with the realities of its rule."

Tunisian journalists went on strike January 11 in Tunis to protest over heavy handed tactics used by security forces to put down anti- government demonstrations across the country. The union office was surrounded by a heavy deployment of police yesterday.

The unrest which has spread to many parts of the country, including Tunis, was triggered by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate, who set fire to himself on December 17 in the town of Sidi Bouzid, south east of the capital Tunis. His desperate action came after the authorities stopped him from selling vegetables without a licence. Media reports say the police fired live ammunition on protesters.

IFJ says the current unrest shows the government's attempts to intimidate media from reporting on the public resentment of the corruption and greed of the ruling political elite in the country have failed. The Federation has launched a campaign for the release of journalist Fahem Boukadous, a correspondent for the satellite channel Tunisian Dialogue who is serving a four year jail term following his conviction for reporting on public demonstrations against unemployment and corruption in the mining town of Gafsa in 2008.

In a statement dated December 28, the SNJT denounced the "ban on journalists and obstructions to their work as well as attacks against some of its members while they were doing their job". "The regime's image of moderate and progressive government is a sham that has been exposed by the courageous action of journalists," added White. "We support our colleagues in their demand for respect of human rights and we call on the authorities to release of Fahem and all his colleagues in detention."

Date posted: January 14, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 98