News24

Media watchdog demands release of Tunisian editor

2012-02-18 22:35

Tunis - Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Saturday demanded the release of a Tunisian newspaper editor held for publishing a photograph of a nude woman.

"RSF demands the immediate release of Nasreddine Ben Saida, the first media official imprisoned in the post-Ben Ali era," the group said in a statement, referring to strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali deposed early last year.

RSF also called for an end to legal action against Saida and two other staff of the newspaper Ettounsia after the three were arrested for indecency on Wednesday.

Their arrests followed the publication of a photo of Real Madrid star midfielder Sami Khedira, a German of Tunisian origin, embracing his naked model girlfriend.

An investigating magistrate decided Thursday to release the editor-in-chief of Ettounsia and a journalist, but ordered that Ben Saida be kept in detention.

He could face from six months to five years in jail and a fine of 120-1,200 dinars (60-600 euros, $79-790) if found guilty.

RSF slammed "the reaction's hypocrisy," noting: "Such photos regularly appear on the front page of foreign magazines sold in Tunisia."

The media watchdog urged Tunisian lawmakers "to demand application of the press code and to protect medias that guarantee democracy and pluralism."

Tunisian press unions also slammed the arrest of Ben Saida, saying in a statement that the action sought to "repress the freedom of journalists and the press."

Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri fired back in comments broadcast by the private radio Mosaique, saying: "Media are supposed to remain neutral and stop harassing magistrates and trying to influence their decisions.

"The time when judges applied instructions is over, magistrates are competent and obey only the law and their conscience."

"No one is above the law in Tunisia, which is a true state of law since the revolution of January 14," 2011, the minister added.