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Friday, January 28, 2005

Summit on the Information Society unfortunately to be held in Tunisia

A fact-finding mission to Tunisia undertaken by members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) has found "serious cause for concern" about the current state of freedom of expression and of civil liberties in the country, 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. Consisting of representatives of Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), International Publishers Association (IPA), Norwegian PEN, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), the delegation met with Tunisian writers, publishers and human rights organisations, as well as government officials and government-sponsored agencies.

The IFEX delegation found cause for concern in eight areas, including the blocking of news and information websites, bans on the distribution of books and publications, and restrictions on the freedom of association, such as the right of organisations to be legally established and to hold meetings. Other concerns include restrictions on
the movement of human rights activists, and widespread police surveillance, intimidation and interception of communications. The delegation also found a lack of pluralism in broadcast ownership - with only one private broadcaster in the country - censorship in the press and lack of diversity of content in newspapers. Individuals are
routinely imprisoned for expressing their opinions and security services practice torture 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 scheduled to meet in Geneva from 17 to 25 February 2005.

The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group consists of ARTICLE 19, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), EOHR, Index on Censorship, WiPC, IPA, Journaliste en Danger (JED), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Norwegian PEN, AMARC, World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and WPFC.

Source: IFEX WSIS Activities and IFEX Alerts on Tunisia

Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on January 28, 2005 at 09:27 AM in l. Conferences and awards, o. Ethics and Press Freedom | Permalink

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