Tunisian police violence against nine journalists covering protest

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns police violence against nine reporters covering a demonstration in Tunis on 1 September that was the first street protest since the authorities declared a state of exception in Tunisia on 25 July. The authorities must respect journalists’ work, RSF said.

The targeted violence prevented the journalists from covering the demonstration called by Manech Msalmine (“We won’t let go”), a movement demanding the truth about the politically-motivated murders of Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi, two left-wing leaders who were gunned down a few months apart in 2013.

Aymen Touihri, a photographer with the investigative news website Inkyfada, freelance photographers Noureddine Ahmed and Ahmed Zarrouki, Hakaek Online reporter Yosra Chikhaoui, freelance reporters Intissar Kssara and Ali Bouchoucha, Kashf Media website editor Khaoula Boukrim and Saber Ayari, a reporter for the Tounes Tatahara (Tunifact) website, were among the journalists roughed up by police during the protest outside the municipal theatre on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis.

Ghaya Ben Mbarek, a reporter who was trying to film the demonstration for the Meshkal and Nawaat online media outlets, sustained a back injury after being asked to show her press card and press sign. 

“I took offence and the policeman hit me in the chest and abdomen and pushed me violently,” she told RSF. “While on the ground, I saw a policeman physically attack a demonstrator. I didn’t have time to film it because another policeman hurled himself on me and threw me into the air. I ended up on the ground again, with an injury to my back.”

Bouchoucha said all of the journalists took care to identify themselves as members of the press and stood apart from both the demonstrators and police, choosing a position that allowed them to see the entire demonstration.

“This police violence is unacceptable, as Tunisia’s state of exception does not legitimise any restriction on press freedom,” said Souhaieb Khayati, the head of RSF’s North Africa bureau. “Journalistic coverage is the only source of reliable information about unrest and helps to ensure the continuation of a real democratic process.”

On 25 July, after a nearly two-year institutional crisis in Tunisia, President Kais Saied suspended parliament, fired the prime minister and declared a one-month state of exception, which he has extended since then without appointing a new prime minister or announcing a timetable for a return to legality.

Tunisia is ranked 73rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 02.09.2021