Last updated: 8 August, 2012

Amnesty fears for Tunisia’s press freedom

Amnesty International voiced fears on Wednesday over restrictions on press freedom in Tunisia, where a blogger and critic of the government was detained.

“There is growing evidence in Tunisia that the new government is increasing restrictions on basic freedoms,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa programme head, said in a statement.

It referred to the arrest last Sunday of blogger Sofiane Shurabi, a scathing critic of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and two friends for drinking alcohol in public during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Like several other civil society members, Shurabi has expressed fear of a creeping Islamisation in Tunisia, where the government is dominated by the Islamist party Ennahda, allied with two centre-left movements.

A day before his arrest, the activist had joined calls for a protest against government policies.

“It is more than likely that the arrest of Sofiane Shurabi was triggered by his call for a protest, as well as his general activism against the government,” said Amnesty.

Lawyer Anis Ezzine told AFP that Shurabi and a journalist friend were arrested on the beach at El Mansoura in northeast Tunisia for “being drunk in a public place, disturbance of the peace and unacceptable behaviour.”

Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Tarouch said a young woman was arrested with them and that all three had admitted the charges. Drinking alcohol in public is severely frowned upon during Ramadan.

The three have been released pending trial, Amnesty said.