For Immediate Release
Security Fears Lead to Press Freedom Decline in Tunisia
NEW YORK - Tunisian press freedom is under threat as journalists are squeezed between violent extremists and security services sensitive to criticism, CPJ finds in a report released today, "In Tunisia, press freedom erodes amid security fears." The report finds that while Islamic militants threaten journalists, the government introduces restrictive legislation and security forces legally harass and even assault members of the press.
"Despite the press freedom advances made in Tunisia since the 2011 Arab uprisings began there, new laws have been introduced that could be abused to silence the media," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Journalists also face threats from extremist groups, with little government protection. These factors combine to form a chilling effect at some news outlets, with editors or media owners reluctant to publish or broadcast critical coverage."
The report, written by Tunis-based journalist Safa Ben Said, examines several troubling pieces of legislation, including a draft bill that would criminalize "denigration" of police or other security forces and anti-terror legislation approved in July that allows for prison sentences of up to five years for anyone found to have praised a terrorist act. The report also finds that Tunisian security forces have resorted to physical violence or threats of violence to obstruct or intimidate journalists.
Threats to journalists' safety also come from extremists. Being squeezed between terrorists and those who purport to fight terrorism is a common predicament for journalists globally, CPJ has found.
The new report includes CPJ's recommendations to the Tunisian government for improving the press freedom climate.
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Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.