Tunis blasted over journalist held for refusing to give source
Khalifa Guesmi, correspondent for the country's leading radio station Mosaique FM in the central region of Kairouan, was arrested on 18 March under anti-terrorism laws after an article was published on the channel's website on the break-up of a "terrorist cell".
The article, which was taken down at the request of the authorities, reported that a former soldier and a university professor had been members of the cell.
Two other Mosaique FM journalists including editor-in-chief Houcine Dabbabi have also been summoned for questioning by an anti-terror judge over the same case.
Guesmi's arrest is "an attack on press freedom ... and journalists' right access to information," said Mahdi Jlassi, head of the country's SNJT journalists' union.
He called it "the gravest" attack on freedom of the press since the North African country's 2011 revolution and especially since last July when President Kais Saied suspended parliament and seized an array of powers.
It "reflects a policy of using state institutions to silence and intimidate journalists," Jlassi said at a news conference.
He also said it was an attack on journalists' right to protect their sources, which is guaranteed under Tunisian law, and dismissed official promises to preserve freedom of the press as "lies".
Saied, who after his power grab moved to rule by decree and seized control of the judiciary, has repeatedly vowed to protect freedoms won during the 2011 revolution which overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The International Federation of Journalists said Tuesday that Tunisia should "immediately release" Guesmi.
"President Saied has a duty to defend freedom of the press and ensure the security of our colleagues as they do their work," said IFJ president Anthony Bellanger.
"We cannot tolerate journalists continually being targeted."