Sunday, November 13, 2005

French daily’s visiting correspondent badly beaten and stabbed on Tunis street

French daily’s visiting correspondent badly beaten and stabbed on Tunis street

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at an attack last night on visiting correspondent Christophe Boltanski of the French daily Libération, who was badly beaten and stabbed by four unidentified assailants in an area of Tunis near his hotel where there are always large numbers of police. “In view of the circumstances of the attack, in which police looked on without reacting, we suspect the assailants were members of the Tunisian security services, and that it was a deliberate act of intimidation targeted by the Tunisian government at foreign journalists who still dare to take an interest in the deplorable human rights situation in Tunisia,” the press freedom organisation said. In the attack on Boltanski, which took place in the Tunis embassy district, the assailants used a pepper spray on him and then gave him a severe beating, Libération said. He was also stabbed once in the back before one of the assailants said, “That’s enough.” They left taking his notebook, mobile phone, USB flash drive and other personal belongings. Boltanski appealed to policemen on guard outside the nearby Czech embassy for help but they did not react, and his assailants were mysteriously able to disappear in a neighbourhood that is full of police. A Tunisian police officer who came to see him in his hotel a few hours later refused to register the complaint he wanted to make. Libération yesterday ran a story by Boltanski headlined “Demonstrators beaten by police in Tunis,” in which he described the beating of human rights activists who tried to stage a demonstration in solidarity with seven leading opposition figures who have been on hunger strike since 18 October.

The Tunisian authorities and the United Nations seem unable to guarantee security and free speech for journalists and human rights activists in Tunis although the city will in five days begin hosting a summit being held under the UN’s aegis that is crucial for the Internet’s future development throughout the world. Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard, for example, was told in a letter from the summit’s executive directorate on 10 November that the Tunisian authorities have banned him from entering the country to attend the summit.


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