- Although Tunisian government is reportedly promoting itself as a progressive state that protects human rights, but reports by committee that protects journalists (CPJ) has unveiled that government aggressively silences newsmen and others who challenge policies of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
According to report, nicknamed, "The Smiling Oppressor," CPJ has found journalists are subject to routine imprisonment, assault, harassment, and censorship in Tunisia.
President Ben Ali's administration reportedly enjoys close ties with western governments, which have been largely silent about country's press freedom record.
But CPJ's investigation found that Tunisia falls well short of internationally accepted standards for free expression.
Report shows that Mr Ben Ali's administration imposes broad restrictions on news coverage, banning, for example, coverage that could be construed as "offending the president," while it tightly regulates licensing of print and broadcast media.
It says licenses are doled out to government allies and denied to potentially critical news outlets.
CPJ found out that critical journalists who turn to Internet or small opposition newspapers have been harassed by security agents, subject to assault, and even jailed.
Tunisia, along with Morocco, leads Arab world in jailing journalists.
"Known across world for its stunning beaches and tourist locales, Tunisia quietly operates a police state at home," report says.
It further says, "Print press does not criticise president and is largely paralysed by self-censorship. Few critical voices who do write on Internet, for foreign publications, and low-circulation opposition weeklies are regularly harassed and marginalised by Tunisian authorities."
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