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Police attack journalists during Tunis demonstrations

While hailing Tunisia’s progress in respect for civil liberties, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) is disturbed by the violence that the security forces deliberately used against journalists during a demonstration in central Tunis on July 15 and by the fact that the Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi held the media partly responsible July 18 for the current social and political unrest.

When around 100 people tried to demonstrate outside the Kasbah Palace in Tunis on July 15 in protest against the current government’s policies, police blocked access to the palace, so many of the demonstrators went to the nearest mosque to made their demands heard, accompanied by the dozens of journalists who were there to cover the protest.

The security forces charged the protesters several times, hitting them with batons, insulting them and using out-of-date tear-gas on them. They also used violence against journalists, who were clearly identifiable because of their cameras even if they were not wearing press markings.

The journalists who were attacked included Nesrine Alloush, Shaker Besbes (Radio Mosaïque), Khawla Selliti (Radio 6), Amani Fethullah, Bashir Al-Saghairi (Radio Jeunesse), Assad Mahmoudi (Tunisna), Reza Al-Tamtam, Marwan Farhani (a freelancer), Hajar Al-Mutairi (Al Sa’a) and Bassam Al-Barqawi (Al Sa’a).

“Hundreds of people were deliberately targeted by the police,” Agence France-Presse correspondent Sofiane Ben Farhat told RSF. “I heard men in uniform shout: ‘The men with cameras down there, they must be attacked’.” Defending their actions, the police accused the demonstrators of vandalism and taking alcohol into the mosque. The Union of Journalists filed a complaint against the interior ministry the next day.

Date posted: July 20, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 25