Sihem Ben Sedrine, Target of the Gutter Press

Paris, June 9, 2005. Our friend Sihem Ben Sedrine, spokesperson for the National Council for Freedom in Tunisia (CNLT), is once again the target of the gutter press.

The day after the publication on World Press Freedom Day of a CNLT report denouncing the disinformation propagated by certain newspapers, Sihem Ben Sedrine was insulted and slandered by a number of Tunisian dailies.

A tireless defender of human rights and editor in chief of the on-line newsletter Kalima, Sihem Ben Sedrine was targeted last May for an outrageous and obscene campaign by the dailies Al Chourouk, Al Hadath, L’Observateur and As Sarih. The newspapers accused her of prostitution, corruption of minors, and treason, pushing their slander to the point of violence. “When the viper reappears. . . we will crush her under our feet,” one declared. Moreover, the editor in chief and leader of these rancid publications, Abdelhamid Riahi (Al Chourouk), was personally decorated last May 27 by President Zine Ben Ali, as an officer of the National Order for Cultural Merit.

The daily Al Chourouk struck again on June 2, 2005, with a defamatory article directed at Souheyr Belhassen, vice-president of the Ligue Tunisienne desDroits de L’homme (LTDH)and office member of the Fédération internationale des droits de l’Homme (FIDH); Master Mokhtar Trifi, president of the LTDH; and Master Mohamed Jmour, a council member of the National Order of Tunisian Lawyers. The list of opponents who have been harassed or humiliated by such defamatory methods is endless.

These unspeakable proceedings are part of a monstrous machine carefully organized and financed at the highest levels of the political police. The goal is simply to discredit and humiliate opponents of the regime and defenders of human rights. The newspapers in question are mercenaries in the service of the policy of slander practiced for years by the Tunisian authorities.

The La Ligue française des Droits de l’homme (LDH) and the Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits de l’ Homme en Tunisie (CRLDHT) vigorously condemn such practices of an obsolete era, and we express our solidarity with the indestructible Madame Sihem Ben Sedrine and with all defenders of human rights victimized by such gutter campaigns.

The LDH and the CRLDHT assure the victims that our side is mobilizing to put a definitive end to the denigration and tarnishing of fighters for human rights, and we reiterate our engagement in all initiatives aimed at setting a limit to the impunity that benefits the authors and the silent partners of defamatory campaigns against the dignity, integrity and probity of the innocent.