The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have welcomed the release of Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, but reiterate calls for the Tunisian government to free all journalists held in detention because of their work and to respect international commitments to freedom of expression.
Mr. Ben Brik, one of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali's firmest critics, was freed on Monday 26 April, after serving the full term of a six-month prison sentence for assault.
He was arrested on 29 October 2009, on spurious charges of having attacked a young woman following a traffic dispute. His trial and subsequent sentencing was widely condemned for being politically motivated, drawing international criticism from human rights organisations, media watchdogs and foreign governments alike.
Prior to his arrest, Mr. Ben Brik had been regularly harassed because of his journalistic work. A staunch opponent of the Tunisian President, he had been previously detained by the authorities and banned from leaving the country. In the lead up to the 25 October, 2009 Presidential election, he received telephone calls warning him "to behave", lest his family be victimized for his writing.
Throughout his trial, Mr. Ben Brik maintained that police had framed him for his political reporting. The 50-year-old journalist, who suffers from a medical condition that requires constant attention, was released from Siliana prison in northwest Tunisia to be reunited with his wife, Azza Zarad, who had led a relentless campaign to keep Mr. Ben Brik's case firmly in the media spotlight.
While welcoming the news of Taoufik Ben Brik's release, Virginie Jouan, WAN-IFRA's Executive Director of Press Freedom and Media Development, stated: "Mr. Ben Brik's imprisonment was, from the beginning, a disgrace, and we remind the Tunisian authorities that targeting journalists as a means of suppressing freedom of expression and silencing critical opposition will not go unchallenged".
WAN-IFRA is part of the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 20 members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) - the global network of free expression campaigners - that monitors free expression violations in Tunisia to focus attention on the country's need to improve its human rights record.
Visit http://ifex.org/tunisia/tmg/ for more information.