Journalist Fahem Boukaddous Jailed, Serious Concern for Health
International PEN strongly protests the imprisonment of Fahem Boukaddous, correspondent for the Al-Badeel news web site and a TV journalist, whose four-year prison sentence for his reports on social protests was confirmed on appeal on July 6, 2010. Boukaddous was unable to attend the appeal hearing due to acute respiratory problems which required hospitalization, and his lawyers were reportedly denied the right to present any defense. He was jailed on July 15, the day after he was discharged from the hospital, and remains in urgent need of medical treatment. PEN calls on the Tunisian authorities to release Boukaddous immediately and unconditionally and to ensure that he receives the medical care he requires.
The following is a statement issued by the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), on July 16, 2010:
(IFEX-TMG) - The International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a coalition of 20 IFEX members, strongly condemns the arrest of journalist Fahem Boukaddous, who is in poor health, and calls on Tunisia's partners to speak out to help save his life.
On 15 July, the day after his release from hospital, Boukaddous - who has been suffering from acute respiratory problems - was arrested and taken to Gafsa prison, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Tunis, without his much-needed medicine. The prison is filthy, very hot in summer and many prisoners smoke, journalists and lawyers told TMG.
He was arrested when he returned to Farhat Hached Hospital in Sousse in the company of his wife, Afef Ben Nasser.
Radhia Nasraoui, one of Boukaddous' lawyers, warned last week against the "dangerous consequences" of denying Boukaddous the "vital medical care he needs." She added that several political prisoners have died from a "lack of medical care" over the past years.
The arrest comes after the 6 July verdict by an appeals court confirming the four-year prison sentence handed down earlier this year to Boukaddous on charges stemming from his coverage of demonstrations in Gafsa in 2008.
The charges brought against Boukaddous, which include "belonging to a criminal association" and "harming public order", appear to be yet another political manoeuvre aiming to silence criticism of Tunisian authorities.
IFEX-TMG members appeal to Tunisia's friends and partners in the EU and around the world to speak out against the arrest and life-threatening imprisonment of Boukaddous, and urge the Tunisian authorities to put an end to the shameful use of the judiciary to stifle free expression and punish critical journalists.
IFEX-TMG members further call upon the Tunisian government to respect its human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which it has ratified.
"The arrest of an ailing journalist is yet another blow to free expression and human rights in Tunisia. The time has come for this country's genuine friends and close partners to help protect Boukaddous' life and end the unrelenting war on basic freedoms," says IFEX-TMG Chair Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship.
Boukaddous, a journalist with Al-Hiwar Al-Tunisi satellite television station, went into hiding in July 2008 after discovering that he was wanted by the Tunisian authorities. He was sentenced to six years in prison in December 2008.
In November 2009, Boukaddous emerged to challenge the sentence on the basis that he had been tried in absentia. A court overturned the previous ruling, but said that Boukaddous would again be tried on the same charges. In January of this year, the journalist was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, which his lawyers appealed, without avail.
The IFEX-TMG's latest report, based on a fact-finding mission to Tunisia, shed light on the alarming use of the judiciary to undermine basic human rights and the country's declining freedom of expression record.
Write A Letter
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Fahem Boukaddous on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights;
- Seeking reassurances that Boukaddous will receive the medical care he urgently requires;
- Calling for an end to the use of the Tunisian judiciary to stifle free expression and punish critical journalists.
Send Your Letter To
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Fax: +216 71 744 721
Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
31 Boulevard Bab Benat
1006 Tunis - La Kasbah
Fax: +216 71 568 106
WITH COPIES TO...
General Director of Prisons
Mrs. Dalenda Belhadj Jomaa
Directeur général des prisons
Rue 8003, Appartement –L-
Espace de Tunis Monplaisir
Fax: +216 71 904 472
Please also send copies of your appeals to the diplomatic representative for Tunisa in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after September 19, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org