Tunisia- The head of the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate expressed his dissatisfaction with the silence of human rights organizations regarding the security and judicial prosecutions that are happening to journalists, while journalists are preparing to protest next week in front of the Tunisian Court of First Instance, to demand the release of 3 imprisoned journalists.
The head of the Journalists Syndicate, Ziad Al-Dabbar, told Al-Jazeera Net that despite the existence of partnerships with many organizations, there is a kind of silence and failure on the part of organizations (which he did not want to mention) in defending freedom of expression and journalists “who are being persecuted with various injunctive legal texts,” he said.
The most recent is the case of Ziad Al-Hani
Some human rights organizations contented themselves with issuing statements called “orphans” to denounce the persecution of journalists, and to demand the release of journalist Ziad Al-Hani, who was arrested on the evening of December 28, following a statement in which he criticized the performance of the current Minister of Commerce, which sparked discontent in the media sector. .
The prosecution decided to bring Ziad Al-Hani to trial in the event of his arrest on January 10, based on Chapter 86 of the Communications Code, on charges of “insulting others via public communications networks,” which stipulates a prison sentence ranging from one to two years, and a fine of Thousand dinars.
The arrest of Ziad Al-Hani, by a security team that took him into a car in handcuffs, shocked journalists, and while organizations denounced his arrest, other organizations did not do anything, such as the Tunisian Judges Association or the Tunisian Association for Democratic Women, and others.
Established organizations such as the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights contented themselves with publishing Yatim’s statement, expressing their rejection of the persecution of journalists and restrictions on freedom of expression, but observers considered her statement “an attempt to preserve face, due to its neglect and silence regarding many violations,” according to their opinion.
It was not published Tunisian General Labor Union (The largest trade union organization in the country) directly issued a statement condemning the persecution of journalists, and the General Media University under which it belongs contented itself with issuing a statement, declaring its rejection of the policy of restricting journalists and prosecuting them outside of Decree 115 regulating the press.
Journalists believe that the President's regime Kais Saiedwho took control after taking exceptional measures on July 25, 2021, dissolving the previous parliament, putting many political leaders in prison, and dismissing dozens of judges, “has struck terror among representatives of human rights organizations in Tunisia.”
Obedience to authority
In the same context, the head of the Journalists Syndicate continued to Al Jazeera Net, “The Syndicate will ask civil society organizations to move with journalists on the day of the trial of journalist Ziad El Hani,” recalling the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate’s defense of the organizations, and their freedom of organization and independence in the darkest periods, without fear of authority or betrayal.
The Journalists Syndicate strongly denounced what it considered a series of systematic targeting of journalists, to instill terror in them, intimidate them, and prevent them from criticizing officials and the political authority led by President Kais Saied, accusing the Public Prosecution of submitting to the authority’s orders to muzzle free journalists.
Ziad Al-Dabbar told Al-Jazeera Net that three journalists had never been imprisoned in the history of Tunisia, explaining that “the public prosecution has become an obedient tool in the hands of the authority, and uses all injunctive legal texts, from the Terrorism Law, the Communications Code, and Decree 54, to prosecute journalists and stifle their work.”
Aside from the case of Ziad Al-Hani, journalist Khalifa Al-Qasimi, who was sentenced to 5 years under the Terrorism Law, is in prison for transmitting information about the dismantling of a “terrorist cell,” and journalist Shatha Al-Haj Mubarak, who is imprisoned in the context of what is known as the “Instalingo” company case.
Yesterday, Thursday, a journalist at the Al Jazeera satellite office in Tunisia, Samir Sassi, was arrested by an anti-terrorism squad, and taken to an unknown destination without knowing the reasons for the arrest, before releasing him later today. The Journalists Syndicate condemned his arrest without informing the family of his destination, and without enabling him to… Contact his lawyer or organization.
Captain Ziad Al-Dabbar says, “There is a clear targeting of journalists through security and judicial prosecutions, and the use of all restraining laws to harass them, while disregarding Decree 115 regulating the profession of journalists, which was enacted in 2011, after the overthrow of the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.”
If the existing authority continues to pursue journalists with restrictive laws, similar to Decree 54 on combating fake news, for which a number of journalists were tried, Al-Dabbar says that “the list of journalists who will be imprisoned will expand dangerously, to include dozens in the coming period, in light of this general circumstance.” “.
Some journalists believe that judges today contribute greatly to the imprisonment of journalists, on the grounds that they express their opinions and practice their profession independently of the authority, due to their fear of retaliation from the authority, especially after the dismissal of dozens of them by a previous decision by President Kais Saied on charges of corruption.
During a meeting at the headquarters of the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate, many journalists expressed their denunciation of what they considered “systematic targeting” against them, through the arrest of journalists and their imprisonment, the violation of the right to access information, the return of “sanctioning” (censorship and punishment) to media institutions, the impoverishment of journalists, and the violation of their material rights. .
Lawyer Ayachi Hammami told Al Jazeera Net, “Tunisia is living in a transition towards dictatorship, and is characterized by a feverish effort to undermine free speech and suppress journalists and lawyers,” explaining that the existing authority was unable to abolish all freedoms because of the gains achieved after the revolution.
The same lawyer believes that “the authority continues to further restrict and harass anyone who opposes it with the aim of expanding its influence,” noting that “there is no choice for defenders of freedom of expression, rights, liberties and democracy but to continue the struggle, despite all the dangers they will face in terms of deprivation of freedom and restrictions.”
Al-Hamami revealed to Al-Jazeera Net that the defenders of journalist Ziad Al-Hani will reverse his trial on January 10, to try the current regime, its officials, and the public prosecution, saying, “On the day of Ziad Al-Hani’s trial, we will turn the magic on the magician, and we will try the regime for the arbitrariness, tyranny, and transgression it has committed.”
For his part, the head of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, Abdel Rahman Al-Hadhaili, told Al Jazeera Net that “the persecutions of journalists that are occurring cannot be isolated from the general context in the country, which is particularly characterized by political blockage and deteriorating economic and social conditions.”
When asked why many well-established organizations content themselves with issuing orphan statements in defense of journalists, Al-Hudhaili confirms that “his organization was one of the first organizations to take the initiative to publish its position rejecting the policy of abusing journalists,” noting that the general context in the country negatively affected the climate of freedoms.