PRESS RELEASE - 31 JANUARY 2005
On the eve of the EU-Tunisia Association Council Meeting, scheduled to take place in Brussels today, IPA - the International Publishers' Association-, and PEN Norway, the Norwegian section of International PEN, urged the European authorities to adopt the EU-Tunisia Action Plan as soon as possible.
The alarming state of Freedom of Expression in Tunisia prompted IPA and PEN Norway to push for the adoption of a National Tunisia Action Plan, calling for the respect for Freedom of Association and Expression, and pluralism of the media. Both organisations were part of a recent International fact-finding mission to Tunisia led in the framework of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX TMG). IFEX is a global network of 64 local and international organisations with a common interest in freedom of expression. The mission, which took place from 14 to 19 January 2005, has found serious cause for continuing concern about the current state of Freedom of Expression and of civil liberties in Tunisia, including gross restrictions on freedom of the press, media, publishing and the Internet.
The IFEX delegation found specific reasons for continuing concern in the following areas:
1. Blocking of websites including news and information websites.
2. Blocking of the distribution of books and publications.
3. Restrictions on the freedom of association, including the right of organisations to be legally established and to hold meetings.
4. Restrictions on movement of human rights activists together with police surveillance, intimidation and interception of communications.
5. Lack of pluralism in broadcast ownership with only one private broadcaster.
6. Press and book censorship and lack of diversity of content in newspapers.
7. Imprisonment of individuals for their opinions and media activities.
8. Use of torture by the security services with impunity.
Says Lars Grahn, Chair of the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee: "The Tunisian legal deposit system is used as a sly form of censorship. We just handed over a list of Tunisian banned books to the European Union. Tunisian authorities should therefore be encouraged to lift censorship on books and other media."
Generally speaking, the authorities do not approve independent NGOs. This is particularly worrying in the light of the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the second phase of which is scheduled to take place in Tunisia in November 2005.
Says Kjell Olaf Jensen, President of PEN Norway: "If nothing is changed, the conditions will not be met for true Tunisian civil society representatives to take part in the World Summit".
For more, or to get a copy of the list of banned books in Tunisia, please contact Alexis Krikorian: firstname.lastname@example.org - + 41 22 830 10 80.