Panafrican News Agency

Tunisian journalists association denounces colleague Ben Brik's one-year prison sentence

Tunis, Tunisia (PANA) - The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) strongly condemned, in a statement issued on Friday, the one-year jail sentence, with immediate execution, of writer and journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, for comments made on a local TV station.

The SNJT described the sentence as a "serious deviation from the judicial treatment of a case that falls within the framework of freedom of expression" and called for his immediate release.

"This is a severe judgment that is part of the spiral of accusations addressed to a judiciary at the behest of money and political barons, which is likely to erode public confidence in the judiciary, which should be the guarantor of rights and freedoms and the protector of the process of democratic transition in Tunisia," the SNJT said.

The union fears that journalists will become involved in political struggles, warning in this respect against "the dictatorship of magistrates" which is likely to "harm freedom of expression, opinion, and the press, while impunity remains commonplace for traffickers, corrupt people and supporters of violence and extremism".

The SNJT urged the Higher Council of the Judiciary to investigate this "judicial scandal", while affirming that the judiciary, like other state institutions such as the presidency and the military, is not above criticism of its independence from political and financial circles of influence.

For the Union, the judgment against Ben Brik in no way respects the legal charters of democracies which agree to allow "all forms of expression without conditions", particularly in the context of the general debate related to public figures in the political field and public institutions, which is likely to reinforce fears of a return to the prohibition of all criticism of institutions, particularly the army, police and judiciary.

The case dates back to the period of the last presidential campaign, following the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of the candidate of businessman Nabil Karoui.

Ben Brik fought despotism and criticised judges under ousted President Ben Ali's reign by publicly naming some of them on the set of a TV station, the union said, adding that he is a media personality and man of letters with a daring speech without ever calling for violence, extremism, terrorism or anarchy.

The people targeted by Ben Brik's criticisms have not lodged any complaints, yet he is being tried with a custodial sentence, the SNJT notes.
-0- PANA YY/IN/JSG/MTA/MA 25Jul2020