Tunisian reporter on hunger strike

A Tunisian journalist has gone on a hunger strike to protest government restrictions he says not only keep him from reporting but also prevent his living a normal life.

    Tunisia has cracked down on press freedoms for over a decade

    Abd Allah Zuari told Aljazeera.net on Thursday that Tunis had ordered police to keep him in the tiny village of Hasi Jarbi, some 15km from the nearest town and on the edge of the Sahara desert.

    The 48-year-old father of five said police had made it clear to him that he was not to contact the outside world or travel to his home and family in the capital Tunis.

    "I've been arrested on numerous occasions for attempting to leave this village. Even using the internet has become an offence. I've been told by police that they do not want to see so much as a CD-Rom in my house

    "My case is not exceptional, but it does demonstrate well the impossible conditions that this government can impose on journalists that do not toe the line," he said.

    "And all attempts to use the courts to defend myself are proving useless. It seems some ministers in this country are far more important than the law."

    History of restrictions

    Zuari said he has suffered extreme interior ministry measures since writing articles for the Al-Fajr weekly magazine in 1990.

    Judged to be sympathetic to the Nahda political movement, the journalist was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in 1990.

    Lead by Rashid al-Ghannuchi, al-Nahda was an Islamist political party that advocated 

    democracy and human rights while promoting the countries cultural and religious heritage.

    "My case is not exceptional, but it does demonstrate well the impossible conditions that this government can impose on journalists that do not toe the line"

    Abd Allah Zuari,
    journalist confined to his village

    Despite both trial and sentence being slammed by human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International, Zuari served the full sentence and was released on 6 June 2002.

    But his imprisonment, he says, did not end there. 

    "I was ordered to stay in the village where I was born ... on my first attempt to meet up with my family in Tunis, I was again imprisoned for eight months" on 19 August 2002.

    Breaching the terms of his release again by entering an internet cafe, the journalist was arrested for a third time on 17 August 2003 and sentenced to 13 months more in jail.

    He was released eight weeks ago.

    Condemnation

    The secretary-general of the Tunisia Solidarity Movement, Fathi Enneas, condemned the treatment of Zuari "and dozens of others like him, who suffer incredible injustice in almost complete media silence".

    "He must be allowed to return to his home and family and to lead a normal life. I call on the international community to pressure the government into putting an end to over 14 years of brutality and bullying," he said.

    Enneas added that Zuari was suffering from heart problems and diabetes.

    No spokesman at the Tunisian Ministry of Justice was prepared to comment on the situation when contacted by Aljazeera.net.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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