Open Letter From Reporters Without Borders to the Tunisian Authorities
Reporters Without Borders, an organization that campaigns for freedom of news and information, was shocked to witness the violent crackdown by the security forces against a gathering in central Tunis on 9 April to commemorate Martyrs’ Day.
On that disastrous day, the organization recorded assaults on 16 journalists, including two foreign reporters. Reporters Without Borders has not witnessed violence of such magnitude since the overthrow of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January last year.
Since 28 March, demonstrations have been banned on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the hub of the protests and a symbol of the Tunisian revolution. Hundreds of people ignored the ban and responded to a call for a demonstration by various civil society organizations.
Police units deployed in central Tunis deliberately set upon the demonstrators and journalists covering the event. Officers did their utmost to prevent those present from recording the abuses by taking photos or video footage.
Journalists’ equipment was smashed, memory cards were confiscated and images deleted, and media workers and citizen journalists beaten and arbitrarily arrested.
The use of tear gas, the display of force by police in plain clothes, the pursuit of fleeing protesters and a multitude of abuses are a reminder that police violence remains rife and the old responses acquired by the security forces during the Ben Ali era have resurfaced in an atmosphere of total impunity.
Reporters Without Borders insists on the immediate creation of an independent inquiry commission to shed light on the disturbances, to establish whether the police were given a free hand to use violence and to impose punishments for offences committed by the police.