RSF Denounces Tunisia’s Crack-down on Journalists Covering Social Protests

Reporters without Borders (RSF) accused Tunisian authorities of harassing journalists covering the anti-austerity protests that have been simmering across Tunisia.

In a statement, RSF condemned the Tunisian police for brief detention and interrogation of one reporter and the confisca-tion of another’s phone.

Mathieu Galtier, a French reporter for the Paris-based daily Libération, received an unexpected visit by police officers at his Tunis home yesterday, one day after he went to Tebourba, a city 30 km west of the capital, to cover a new outbreak of protests, RWB said, adding that the journalist underwent brief detention at a police station in an attempt to obtain infor-mation about his contacts.

Nadim Bouamoud, another reporter, was harassed by a po-lice officer on January 7. They seized his phone while he was providing live video coverage of one of the protests in the an-ti-austerity campaign, whose slogan is “Fech nestannow” (What are we waiting for?)

“These media freedom violations by representatives of the se-curity forces are unacceptable in a democratic country such as Tunisia,” said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF’s North Africa bureau. “Journalists must be able to freely cover the protests currently taking place in Tunisia. We call on the authorities not to obstruct their work.”

As Tunisia was to mark the 7th anniversary of its revolution that ended years of dictatorship in 2011, a social protest movement broke out in several cities after the entry into force on January 1 of the 2018 budget which provides for price in-creases.

The 1018 budget, adopted at the end of last year, increases notably VAT, taxes on telephony or real estate and some im-port duties, and introduces a social contribution of solidarity on profits and wages to bail out social funds.

The movement degenerated into riots after the death of a man during a demonstration in Tebourba west of Tunis. Dur-ing the protests, over 800 people were arrested. According to the Interior Ministry, the people arrested are believed to be involved in acts of violence, robbery and looting. Some 97 law-enforcement and civil protection personnel were wounded in the clashes with protesters, the Ministry said.

Calm has returned overall in the country since Thursday night with the exception of minor protests.

According to AFP, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi was scheduled to meet with ruling parties, trade unions and em-ployers on Saturday (jan.13) to discuss ways to end the crisis after the unrest fueled by austerity measures and violence.

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