Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of one journalist and a vicious assault on another following the re-election of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali as president for the fifth time on 24 October.
In the run-up to polling, the president publicly warned his detractors that the law would be “brought to bear on anyone casting accusations or doubts on the integrity of the electoral process without solid evidence”. Once the head of state was re-elected with 89.62% of the vote, the regime’s henchmen have wasted no time in putting these threats into effect, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The arrest of Taoufik Ben Brik and the assault on Slim Boukhdhir constitute unacceptable violations of press freedom,” the organisation said. “We call on the international community to react to these actions worthy of a criminal regime, the day after the re-election of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.”
Ben Brik was arrested today when he answered a summons for an alleged assault on a woman in the street last week. Everything points to the being a case trumped up by the authorities to attack the journalist who has written critical articles about President Ben Ali. He was taken to the Bouchoucha detention centre in Tunis and is due to go before a judge tomorrow.
Independent journalist Slim Boukhdhir was physically assaulted by five men in civilian clothes as he got out of a taxi in the Bardo district of Tunis on his way home yesterday. Two hours earlier, he had given an interview to the BBC about the Reporters Without Borders’ report based on a fact-finding visit to Tunisia. He had said it was impossible for independent journalists to do their job.
Boukhdhir was manhandled into a car parked nearby and after blindfolding him, the men unleashed a stream of blows on his face and all over this body, insulting and threatening him, along with his family. They stripped him and threatened him with a flick knife. “They drove for a long time, so long that I had the impression that we were in Radis forest, 6km from Tunis. The blows were raining down on me so hard my face was on fire”, he said.
The men dumped Boukhdhir near Belvédère park in the north of the city, robbed of all his possessions, clothes, papers, money and telephone. He managed to reach the home of some friends who took him to hospital, where he was signed off for 14 days with a broken nose, damaged vision in the left eye, bruises to the face, ribs, shoulders, back and legs. He said he would be laying a formal complaint.