PEN International welcomes the release on January 19, 2011, of Fahem Boukaddous, correspondent for Al-Badil news web site and TV journalist, after more than seven months in prison. Boukaddous was sentenced to a four-year prison term in July 2010 for his reports on social protests. PEN also welcomes the release on January 18, 2011, of journalists Ammar Amroussia, Soufiane Chourabi, and Hamadi Kaloutcha, bloggers Nibras Mahzeeli, Mue’z al-Bai, and Mue’z Jama’I, and rapper El Général (real name Hamada Ben Aoun). They were arrested after reporting on the recent protests in Tunisia which led to the fall of President Ben Ali.

Background Information

Boukaddous was released as a part of a general amnesty for political prisoners on January 19, 2010. Following his release, he told PEN International “I would like to thank PEN International for working tirelessly for my release. Your campaigning gave me hope while I was in detention. I was the last journalist to be released in Tunisia and now we have hope.”
Amroussia, Chourabi, Kaloutcha, Mahzeeli, al-Bai, Jama’I and Ben Aoun were released on January 18, 2011, by the interim government as part of the general amnesty. They had not been charged or tried.

Boukaddous was arrested on July 15, 2010, after being discharged from a hospital where he had been receiving treatment for respiratory problems, and taken to Gafsa Prison, 500 kilometers southwest of Tunis. The arrest followed a July 6 verdict by an appeals court confirming the four-year prison sentence handed down to Boukaddous earlier that year on charges stemming from his coverage of demonstrations in Gafsa in 2008. It was believed that the charges of "belonging to a criminal association" and "harming public order" were politically motivated, with the aim of silencing criticism of the Tunisian authorities. While in detention, Boukaddous suffered from severe respiratory problems and received little medical attention.

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