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Tunisia press syndicate head facing prosecution over protest

Tunisia press syndicate chief says he faces prosecution over protest
2 min read
21 February, 2023
Mehdi Jlassi, the head of Tunisia's press syndicate, has been accused of inciting disobedience against the police. He claims it is an attempt to intimidate his organisation and silence criticism of President Kais Saied.
Jlassi has been accused of inciting disobedience against the police [Jdidi Wassim/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The head of Tunisia's press syndicate said on Tuesday he faced a police complaint over a protest last year, calling it an attempt to intimidate his organisation and silence criticism of the president.

Mehdi Jlassi said he learned of the accusations after police showed his lawyer the formal complaint while she was defending other activists in the same case. She told him that his name was one of several listed alongside those activists, he said.

The complaint accuses Jlassi of inciting disobedience against the police and assaulting police officers during a small protest in July last year, Mehdi told Reuters by phone.

However, "there was no attack or clash with the police" during that protest, he added.

The police and Interior Ministry declined to comment on the complaint.

Police have this month carried out a wave of arrests of critics of President Kais Saied, who shut down the elected parliament in 2021 and assumed broad powers, moves his critics have called a coup.

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Saied has said his actions were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos. The police and Interior Ministry have declined comment on those arrests too but Saied has accused some of those detained of being behind price rises and shortages of goods.

Jlassi and the press syndicate have been vocal champions of freedom of speech in Tunisia, which blossomed after the 2011 revolution that brought democracy, and has largely persisted since Saied's seizure of powers.

Concerns over press freedom have increased because one of those detained was Noureddine Boutar, head of Mosaique FM, Tunisia's main independent news outlet. Jlassi said the syndicate would not back down.

A Tunisian court on Monday issued an arrest warrant for Boutar, who was accused by a judge of "harming the highest echelon of authority and symbols of the state", the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Boutar was arrested a week ago, amid a spate of arrests of political activists, former judges, and a prominent businessman.

(Reuters, The New Arab)