The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), the International Federation of Jounalists (IFJ), and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) have rallied in support of two Tunisian journalists aggressed on the second anniversary of the revolution.
According to SNJT, Zied El Hani, a journalist affiliated with the IFJ and member of FAJ’s executive bureau, was physically assaulted on January 14 in Habib Bourguiba avenue. His colleague and former secretary general of SNJT, Neji Bghouri, was verbally assaulted and threatened on that day as well.
According to the IFJ, the perpetrators claimed to be affiliated with the League for the Protection of the Revolution. The federation condemned the attacks and described the assailants as militias, who have “created a parallel power in Tunisia”.
The SNJT directed culpability for the act towards the government in power. It released a statement, blaming the ruling Ennahdha party for its support of the “militias” and demanding the immediate prosecution of the two journalists’ attackers.
“We expect a strong reaction from the authorities without which they are liable for direct involvement in this climate of terror,” SNJT head Jim Boumelha said in a communiqué on the federation’s official website.
Fahem Boukaddous from the Tunis Center for Press Freedom’s monitoring unit told Tunisia Live that the country has indeed witnessed an increase in the number of assaults against journalists since the creation of the League for the Protection of the Revolution. He explained that journalists are less often attacked by the police because the League is taking charge of such a duty.
“The League for the Protection of the Revolution used to include militants and activists before its dissolution under Beji Caid Essebsi’s transitional government. The new League formed under the current interim government represents a militia… Nothing more, nothing less,” Boukaddous explained.
“The League of the Protection of the Revolution is guilty of at least seven to eight assaults on journalists. Many remain unreported due to the police’s bias,” he added.
Boukaddous claimed that the government is practicing “bipolar justice.”
“We are witnessing a legal crisis. It is much easier for a businessman to convict a journalist for defamation than it is for a journalist to charge his perpetrators… hence, the reluctance to report,” he said, pointing to the fact that the public prosecutor is under the minister of justice’s command.
Zoubair Chhoudi, an Ennahda spokesperson, explained to Tunisia Live that the ministries are distinct from the party thereby making such accusations towards Ennahdha meaningless. The government is currently working with an substantial amount of issues and finds itself forced to prioritize some over others, he added.
“As a principle, Ennahda is against all violence,” Chhoudi stressed.
The two journalists were not the only ones attacked on January 14, according to Boukaddous. Boukhedra Hajji and Hichem Abdessayed, not so-well known journalists from El Hiwar Tounsi channel, were subject to a more aggressive assault. Boukaddous faulted the media for not reporting about the two journalists of lesser fame.
El Hiwar Tounsi journalists reported being assailed by individuals holding Wahhabi flags. The attackers labeled the journalists as heretics, leftists, former regime holdovers, and enemies of the revolution and promised to “cleanse” the country of them.
The IFJ has previously called attention on the frequent attacks directed against journalists with Tunisian authorities and did so in a meeting last year with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali on October 5.