A Treatment for the Press in Tunisia, by Fahem Boukaddous

Posted: September 3, 2010 in Media

WAN-IFRA presents the latest in an exclusive series of monthly cartoons by Michel Cambon satirizing the enemies of press freedom. Click on the image, download and publish for free.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali administers his own form of treatment for the ailing Tunisian press.

The situation for journalists and the independent press in Tunisia continues to worsen, with the recent sentencing to four years in prison of Fahem Boukaddous.

In serious ill health and in need of regular medical treatment, Mr Boukaddous, a journalist with Al-Hiwar Al-Tunisi satellite television station, was nevertheless convicted on 6 July on charges of “belonging to a criminal association” and “harming public order” following his coverage of demonstrations in Gafsa in 2008. His sentencing appears yet another political manoeuvre aimed at silencing criticism of the Tunisian authorities.

As part of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a coalition of 20 IFEX members who monitor the human rights situation in Tunisia, WAN-IFRA strongly condemns the court ruling and urges the authorities to put an end to the shameful use of the judiciary to stifle free expression.

Shortly before his incarceration, Mr Boukaddous wrote an open letter from his hospital bed:

“Let my life be the price to be paid for freedom and democracy.”

You are all no doubt aware of what I went through this past week. Indeed, though I suffered an acute asthmatic attack that necessitated sending me to the Farhat Hached Teaching Hospital in Sousse from 3 July, the Gafsa Court of Appeals insisted on sentencing me to a four-year prison term. It took no notice of the hospitalization certificate presented to it by my lawyer, thus contravening one of the basic principles of a fair trial.

In parallel, a number of policed officers have been laying siege to my room in the pneumonic section of the afore-mentioned hospital, made many attempts to have me discharged by the medical staff, and are even now stalking me so that they can throw me in jail as soon as I leave the hospital.

I am making this appeal to public and international opinion, and first and foremost the journalistic profession, of which I am proud to be a member, to make them aware of my situation fraught with real danger. Indeed, it is no secret that I have been suffering from acute asthma for over twenty years, and am now at an advanced stage of the illness, whose repeated attacks have exhausted my body and reduced its capacity for resistance.

My body is now dependent on urgent interventions and drug taking that would hardly be available for me in jail. Indeed, the infection now affecting both my lungs and the obstruction of my airways inevitably leads to a low rate of oxygen in the brain that makes me pass out and requires urgent artificial respiration, which indeed has ever saved me from certain death. Throwing me in a prison cell, as I well know, will only increase my suffering and further damage my health.

I experienced this situation in the past, and fully know that prison means overcrowding, filth, humidity, a great number of smokers, and breathing difficulty (for all), particularly in the scorching heat of Summer. In addition any health assistance I may require will depend on the prison administration, not to mention its slowness, ineffectiveness and uselessness in most cases. Putting me in this position in my present state of health is tantamount to a death sentence.

As I make this appeal to you, I hold Tunisian authorities fully accountable for the deterioration that will inevitably be cause to my health, for leaving the hospital to go to jail just means death to me.

When I chose to be a journalist, I chose the side of free, decent and truthful speech, fully aware of the price to be paid by those who make that choice, and I will not be less daring or courageous than my predecessors, nothing daunted by unjust sentences, even at the cost of my own life. Let my life be the price to be paid for freedom and democracy.

Fahem Boukaddous

Source: arabpressnetwork.org

Posted via nawaat’s posterous


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