Open debate needed on freedom of expression in Tunisia
Tunisia, Politics, 3/2/2005
A report by International Freedom of Expression Exchange - Tunisia Monitoring Group said : The International freedom of expression organisations called for open debate on freedom of expression in Tunisia in preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be held in Tunis, in November 2005.
The call has been made in response to restrictions placed on the distribution at the United Nations of a 60-page report on the state of freedom of expression in Tunisia.
The report, released to coincide with the second Preparatory Committee for the WSIS, in Geneva 17-25 February, sets out the findings of a mission to Tunisia of freedom of expression groups. It makes a series of recommendations to the Tunisian government to bring the country in line with international human rights standards.
On the same day as the release of the report, a response from the Tunisian government's External Communications Agency to the preliminary findings of the mission was widely circulated at the United Nations meeting.
But the freedom of expression groups have been told the report itself can not be publicly distributed to government delegates in Geneva, despite it being extensively reported in the media and freely available on the Internet.
Luckson Chipare, Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and IFEX Convenor, said: "This is a serious report about a serious issue of concern to all stakeholders in the World Summit on the Information Society. We believe an open debate on the issue is essential to the success of the World Summit. It is ridiculous that a preparatory meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society should not be able to freely access information on the conditions in which the next phase of the World Summit will take place." The main recommendations of the report are that the Tunisian government should release prisoners of opinion, end arbitrary administrative detentions, end harassment and assaults on human rights activists, stop blocking websites, end censorship of books and newspapers, open up the press and broadcasting, respect freedom of movement, assembly and association, and allow independent investigation of alleged cases of torture by the security forces.
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