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Tunisians protest over detained journalist

Demonstrators gathered outside the SNJT national journalists' union chanting "journalism isn't a crime" and accusing authorities of a clampdown on the media   -  
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AFP -

Tunisia

Dozens of Tunisian journalists protested on Friday to demand press freedom and the release of a reporter who was detained for refusing to reveal his sources to authorities.

Demonstrators gathered outside the SNJT national journalists' union chanting "journalism isn't a crime" and accusing authorities of a clampdown on the media since President Kais Saied's July 2021 power grab.

One protestor held up a placard reading "press freedom is a red line".

Khalifa Guesmi, a correspondent for the country's leading radio station Mosaique FM, was arrested on March 18 under anti-terrorism laws after refusing to reveal his sources for an article on the break-up of a "terrorist cell".

He and two other Mosaique FM reporters including editor-in-chief Houcine Dabbabi appeared before an "anti-terrorism" court on Friday morning.

SNJT head Mahdi Jlassi has called Guesmi's arrest the gravest attack on press freedom since the North African country's 2011 revolution.

Last July, President Kais Saied suspended parliament and seized an array of powers.

He has since moved to rule by decree and seized control of the judiciary, while repeatedly vowing to protect freedoms won by the 2011 revolution which overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Less than a week after Guesmi's arrest, plain-clothes police officers prevented two journalists from covering a protest demanding a probe into the 2018 drowning of 19-year-old football fan Omar Labidia after police allegedly forced him into a river.

Thameur Mekki, editor of the Nawaat website where the reporters work, they had been summoned to appear in court on April 14 but have not been informed of any charges.

Jlassi told demonstrators on Friday that the judiciary was implicated in authorities efforts to "silence" opposition.

"Through these practices, authorities want to send us a message: either be afraid 

****AFP****

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