Tunis - Tunisian journalists went on strike on Tuesday to
protest pressures imposed on them by the authorities, after a reporter was
arrested for accusing the public prosecutor of fabricating evidence against a
The country's newspapers all ran with headlines announcing
"Tunisian journalists are sick and tired, but they are
not giving up," Le Temps announced on its front page, with Le Quotidien
proclaiming that "The battle for freedom of expression rages."
"They can stifle freedom, they can restore the rule of
terror insidiously, but the warning shots of revolt will be heard," warned
Radio stations only broadcast information related to the
general strike, as requested by the national journalists union, which called
the industrial action, only the second in its history.
"Tunisian journalists are observing a general strike on
Tuesday... called by the national union of Tunisian journalists [SNJT]. This
strike was agreed on following the arrest of our colleague Zied el-Heni,"
said RTCI radio.
The official TAP news agency also said it would offer a
"minimum service, only covering events of extreme importance."
Striking journalists are expected to gather outside the SNJT
headquarters in the capital at 1300 GMT.
Heni was placed in pre-trial detention on Friday for
accusing the public prosecutor of fabricating evidence implicating cameraman
Mourad Meherzi in an egg-throwing attack on a minister last month.
The cameraman spent three weeks in prison before being
released on bail, while the egg-thrower -- a film-maker -- remains in custody.
Heni was freed on bail on Monday, but his detention, which
follows the prosecution of other journalists, media organisations and artists,
angered the country's unions and journalists.
"The authorities will never succeed in taming
journalists," Heni told private Tunisian radio station Mosaique FM, whose
news bulletins were exclusively focused on the strike.
Many journalists accuse the ruling Islamist party Ennahda of
tightening press freedom and seeking to control the editorial policies of
public media, especially by appointing compliant directors.
Ennahda, the judiciary and police have also been repeatedly
accused by the opposition and civil society groups of trying to stifle freedoms
of expression won in the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring.
Two rappers were convicted at the end of August and
sentenced to 21-month jail terms over songs deemed to be defamatory towards the
Media rights in Tunisia are theoretically governed by two
decrees adopted after the revolution, designed to guarantee press freedom and
regulate audiovisual media.
But the public prosecution continues to rely extensively on
the penal code inherited from the ousted regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and
still in force, under which press offenses can be punished by jail terms.