September 19, 2017

Tunisian police attack reporter during demonstration

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the action of the Tunisian police in attacking and arresting a radio reporter as he covered a demonstration yesterday in the southeastern city of Sfax, and calls for a thorough and impartial investigation with the aim of identifying and prosecuting those responsible.

Although clearly identified as a journalist, Diwan FM reporter Hamdi Souissi was assaulted by a group of policemen while providing live coverage of a sit-in in support of a primary school school-teacher accused by parents of “atheism” and having “a bad influence” on their children.

After receiving injuries to the face and shoulder, Souissi was taken to the South Sfax police station, where he was interrogated for more than two hours and his radio equipment was confiscated.

“The violence of the attack was unprecedented,” Souissi told RSF. “The police became more aggressive when I identified myself as a journalist. It was as if it was a crime to cover a sit-in.” In the recording of his live coverage of the sit-in, he can be heard to identify himself and the police can be heard insulting him.

“There is no justification for using violence against a journalist who is doing his job,” RSF said. “We strongly condemn this attack and we call for a swift investigation that sheds light on an incident that is unacceptable in a democracy.”

When RSF phoned interior ministry press officer Yasser Mosbah, he declined to answer any questions. The National Union of Tunisian Journalists reported that the police station’s commander apologized to Souissi after the interior ministry intervened, and that the interior ministry attributed the incident to “confusion.”

When Diwan FM editor in chief Mehdi Ben Amor went to collect Souissi from the police station, he and Souissi were subjected to further aggressive police behaviour that was witnessed by a court bailiff. Ben Amor said they would lose no time in filing a complaint. Diwan FM is a general interest radio station based in Sfax.

Tunisia is ranked 97th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.