RAN 01/11 13 January 2011
PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) strongly condemns the killing, mass arrests and disappearances of civilians including several journalists, bloggers, writers , lawyers and other activists across Tunisian cities in the course of protests that are currently taking place. PEN is concerned about the arrest of at least twelve journalists and bloggers for covering the protests and in particular about the disappearances of Nizar Ben Hassan a blogger and journalist for Radio Kalima and Hamma Hammami the editor of the banned newspaper Albadil, who were abducted by the Special Unit of the Presidential Security. Their whereabouts are still unknown and they are considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment. PEN is seriously concerned about their safety. The WiPC considers the journalists' detention to be in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and calls on the Tunisian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally. In the meantime, it urges the authorities to disclose the whereabouts of the abducted journalists, and seeks assurances that they will not be ill treated while in detention.
According to PEN's information, protests against unemployment and corruption were sparked in mid- December 2010 and have since spread across the country and reached the capital, after an unemployed university graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire after police dismantled his fruit stall.
Over the past month, mass arrests have taken place throughout the country and security officers have responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of civilians were killed and many more wounded. With the internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Tunisian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events.
Several newspapers and magazines have been confiscated and suspended including the opposition weekly Al-Mawkif, Al-Tariq al-Jadid, the news broadcaster Al-Jazeera and others.
Among those arrested are journalists, bloggers, reporters and a popular rap singer. These include blogger Azyz Amamy (http://azyz404.blogspot.com/), Soufiane Chourabi a reporter working for the opposition weekly Al-Tariq al-Jadid, Hamadi Kaloutcha (http://www.facebook.com/Kaloutcha.Hamadi), Slim Amamou (http://twitter.com/#!/slim404), Ammar Amroussia, who covered the recent events in Sidi Bouzid for the banned newspaper Al-Badil (http://www.albadil.org/), Mouldi Zouabi, journalist for the online magazine Kalima, Nibras Mahzeeli, Mue'z al-Bai, Mue'z Jama'I and rapper El Général - real name Hamada Ben Aoun, for his lyrics, ‘Tunis ya Bladne' (Tunis our Homeland) http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=129701343760262&oid=153793954645919&comments).
•Alert by Reporters Without Borders (7 January 2011): http://en.rsf.org/tunisia-wave-of-arrests-of-bloggers-and-07-01-2011,39238.html
•Urgent Action by Amnesty International (13 January 2010): http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE30/003/2011/en/df4a4e20-e7eb-4aca-a23e-2c1cfc07d918/mde300032011en.html
•Alert by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (5 January 2011): http://www.cpj.org/2011/01/tunisia-must-end-censorship-on-coverage-of-unrest.php
•Alert by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (12 January 2011): http://cpj.org/2011/01/tunisia-must-end-crackdown-on-media.php