Tunisian journalists strike for press freedom
A number of journalists in the country of Tunisia have walked out on strike in response to the detainment of a journalist earlier in September.
The Arab Spring marked an important turning point for politics in countries throughout the Middle East. Many of the countries that underwent revolutions and uprisings are still working on realizing the full effects of their revolutions. While some are in the midst of new governmental changes, such as Egypt, others are working to improve the new structures that they have established.
When Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in an act of desperation because of the economic situation in which he found himself, there was no way of him knowing the repercussions of his act . After the Tunisian shed light on the economic situation of many in the country, people took to the streets in protest, which ultimately led to the over throw of the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime and the start of the Arab Spring.
There were numerous violations of freedom that the previous regime enacted against its people, one of which included punishing "press offenses" with jail terms, according to Al Jazeera. However, this is a problem that is still reverberating throughout the country. In September, a Tunisian journalist, Zied El Heni was detained for the weekend after he accused a public prosecutor of fabricating evidence in the jailing of a camera man who filmed a film-maker throw an egg at a minister.
Following El Heni's release, journalists in Tunisia staged a country wide strike against the press restrictions that are being imposed by the government. This is only one of the many recent imprisonments that violate freedom of speech. Earlier in the summer, two rappers were sentenced to 21 month prison terms for the content of their songs, which were said to be defamatory to police, despite never having known of their accusations or subsequent trial. As a result, they have since been on the run.
These recent actions raise some concerns about the state of free speech in the country – a principle that was one of the main focal points of the revolution two years ago. This has prompted some international organizations to chime in on the conflict, including the International Federation of Journalists.
"The prosecution of El Heni is the straw that broke the camel's back," said Jim Boumelha, the president of the IFJ. "The Constituent Assembly has so far made no attempt to fix these outdated laws which are still used to create a dangerous climate of fear and self-censorship. It is about time they are dismantled."
The IFJ is encouraging journalist unions around the globe to show support for these Tunisian writers.