Tunisian Blogger Beaten at Sit-In
Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni recounted on her blog her beating by police during a sit in in front of parliament on August 5th in what she described as a “scene…worthy of December 2010.” Police broke up the planned demonstration to protest failings of the Ennahda government, during which Mhenni says she was detained by around 10 officers and received blows to the head and legs. “One of them was holding me by the neck, two others tried to tear out my bag whereas the others were having fun beating me and tearing my clothes,” she recalls, adding that the officers also stole her camera.
Meanwhile, a government proposal for a new media regulatory committee drew criticism from the National Union of Tunisian Journalists over concerns that the body’s lack of independence would interfere with the freedom of journalists. In a statement rejecting the proposal, the union cited a change that lets the government be “able to choose the members of the regulatory committee by itself. This interferes with the independence of journalism, and will put us back under censorship.” The proposal will still be presented before the entire National Constituent Assembly for ratification.
Also expressing concerns for press freedoms, Amnesty International released a statement saying there is “growing evidence in Tunisia that the new government is increasing restrictions on basic freedoms.” The group cited the recent arrest of blogger Sofiane Shurabi and two friends for drinking alcohol in public.
In addition, Samuel McNeil reports on the controversy swirling around a compensation fund for political prisoners from the Ben Ali era, one critics say is a means to buy votes for Ennahda. The $470 million fund for 11,000 victims has been derided by protesters and government officials alike, including former Finance Minister Hussein Dimassi who cited the fund as a reason for his resignation. Because the Ben Ali regime persecuted Islamists, many including Dimassi say the fund’s creation was partisan, and question the timing when the country faces major financial challenges.