2 journalists in detention in Tunisia as authorities launch wave of arrests against critics

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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied speaks during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels, on Feb 18, 2022. (AP)

TUNIS, Tunisia, May 16, (AP): Two journalists were kept under detention in Tunisia on Wednesday, following a raft of arrests targeting government critics including lawyers and the press that has drawn concern from the country’s international allies.
Authorities in the north African country this week unleashed a new campaign of repression against perceived opponents of President Kais Saied ‘s government. Migration activist Saadia Mosbah, France 24 cameraman Hamdi Tlili and lawyer Sonia Dahmani were among those detained or arrested in recent days.
Tlili was subsequently released without being charged, according to the North Africa Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
On Wednesday, radio journalist Borhen Bsaies and opinion columnist Mourad Zeghidi were kept under pre-trial detention four days after they were apprehended. They were accused of violating a cybercrime law barring fake news and undermining state security.
Bsaies’s attorney Nizar Ayed told The Associated Press that his client was questioned for five hours about his Facebook posts and political views but did not offer clear evidence that he had violated the law or made remarks targeting the president.
Criticism of Tunisia’s president is often used as a reason for officials to charge people with undermining state security.
Khaled Drareni, Reporters Without Borders’ North Africa representative, called the arrests “a frontal attack on press freedom.” In a statement he called for “an end to this serious obstruction that signals the tougher line being taken by an increasingly authoritarian government.”

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