The Religious Smokescreen

Cross Posted on OpenDemocracy.

Theories about the Tunisian Government being a puppet in the hands of Rachid Ghannouchi, head of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, seem to be justified by a buzzing online video leaked on October 10, 2012. The spiritual leader, supposedly retired from the political scene, is caught on video during a meeting at the Ennahda offices in Tunis.

He appears to be advising Salafi representatives to act wisely in order to solidify their gains over the secularists and consolidate their long-term strategy to reign over Tunisia. Ghannouchi and other members of the Ennhada party state that the video dates back to February or March 2012 and it has been spun and taken out of context.

Throughout the video Ghannouchi seemed to encourage the Salafi groups to do more community outreach through building media institutions and schools to better influence the people with their ideas. ‘Do not rush things’. He said. ‘I tell the Salafi youth that we all went through the same and we suffered. Now you need to have a TV, a radio, schools, and invite the Imams. Why are you rushing things?’ He adds. ‘We should present a reassuring discourse to people, and instruct them to protect our achievements. We should spread our schools and our associations throughout the country,’ the Ennahda leader says.

The pro-Ennahda camp got defensive at the reaction to the video. They tried to justify themselves on the grounds that the meeting took place during the national debate on whether to use Sharia law as the source of legislation in the country’s new constitution. The aim of the meeting was to include the Salafi groups into the democratic process and convince them to drop their use of violence to further their cause.

However, some left-wingers are calling this evidence of Ennahda’s obvious plan to turn Tunisia into an Islamic state similar to Iran. Ghannouchi says on video that Ennahda was now under the control of the Mosques and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He argues that too radical a change could backfire on them, as it did for the Algerian Islamists in the 1990s.

He further highlights the secularists’ threat to their plans because they control the main sectors of the state: 

‘Now the secular groups, though they did not gain a majority, still control the media, the administration and the economy. The administration is in their hands. Yes, we are heading the administration but all the bases are under their power. Even the governors are under their control … the army is in their hands. We cannot guarantee the police and the army,’ stated the party leader.

The Ministry of National Defence issued a statement on the same day stating that the military will always be Republican and apolitical.

It further explained that the army would remain neutral with regard to conflicts between the political parties and keep the same distance from any political polarization. In the same context, the Ministry called on all soldiers and officers in the army to respect the laws of the country and the hierarchy within the national army and commit themselves to serving the nation.

Hatem Farhat, a lawyer from Mahdia, filed a lawsuit the following day against Rachid Ghannouchi. The lawyer claimed that the statements clearly indicate the party’s intentions to control all aspects of the state and provoke people to fight, thereby threatening the internal security of the State as per Acts 70 and 72 of the Tunisian Criminal Code. The complaint states also that this tape highlights Ghannouchi’s real intention to change the state, according to Chapter 72.  The lawyer demanded that the Court of First Instance carry out an audit to verify the authenticity of the video as part of this investigation and to refer any found guilty to the court.

In an interview with AFP last month, Ghannouchi called the Salafi groups a danger ‘to public freedom’ and vowed that the authorities would crack down on them after they caused deadly violence at the US embassy in Tunis.

The double-faced discourse employed by Ennahda is making it harder to have confidence in their statements. On the one hand, they claim to be moderate and are in full support of the country’s democratic transition and preserving people freedoms. And on the other hand, they remain silent at the different attacks made by the Salafi groups and their on-going threat to public freedoms.

They also seem to be focusing on manipulating behind the scenes to keep control by buying more time, thus postponing answering the people’s most urgent demands.  


Tunisian Constitutional Assembly Violates its Own Transparency

This article is cross-posted on OpenDemocracy.

Tunisia scored 3.8 on the 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption around the world, through aggregated surveys and country reports.  The scoring is on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means that a Country is perceived as highly corrupt and 10 guarantees probity. Tunisia, with a score of 3.8 is ranked 73, along with Brazil. (Of the 183 Countries surveyed New Zealand, Denmark and Finland topped the list, while North Korea and Somalia are at the bottom.)

This was no surprise for Tunisians.  When Tunisians took to the streets, they called for an end to the authorities’ abuse of the system. For an end to bribery in public procurement, to promoting their own interest and misuse of public funds, through rendering all public data accessible to all Tunisians at all times – in one word, transparency.

The Constitutional Assembly plays a key role in determining the democratic transition of the new Tunisia, ensuring that Tunisians are aware at all times what bills their representatives are debating and voting for.  This remains a distant goal. 

Two weeks ago, a coalition of activist groups, namely, the transparency initiative, the collective activist group and blog Nawaat, and the pro-democracy group Al-Bawsala,  announced that they had filed a lawsuit against the Constitutional Assembly for violating its own transparency standards, articles 54 and 62, necessitating the publication of vote counts and committee reports:

‘Deputies must learn that their vote does affect all the people they are representing, it is not just about them and their names only’ – expressed 27 years old, Amira Yahyaoui, chair of Al-Bawsala on a TV talk show.

‘If they don’t follow their own laws (articles 54 & 62), how are we supposed to have confidence in their creation of our national laws?’ said Malek Khadraoui, a representative of Nawaat to Tunisia Live.

The activists’ decision to take legal action against the Assembly came after months of concentrated efforts to push them to be more open in their proceedings. However, the noncompliance by the Assembly which they attributed to an idiotic lack of technical support actually constitutes an implicit refusal to live up to its own standards, stressed Amira.

This transparency initiative is gaining support from a range of media outlets, politicians and members of the Assembly from various political affiliations. Ultimately it is the demands of the electorate and the compliance with the constitution that is important.

The current Troika government has put in place a corruption monitoring website for public administrations and a state TV channel broadcasting live the Assembly’s general sessions, but this is not enough.

The 3.8 CPI score was no shock. However for the Tunisian people to believe that their country is making great advances in their steps against corruption, the Government needs to improve on their transparency. This is our only guarantee that they have made a break with a past of corruption paving the way to truthfulness and prosperity.

The Power of a Blank Page

It was named the Dignity Revolution, an intensive campaign of civil resistance sparked almost two years ago, calling for employment, freedom, dignity and ending corruption.  

338 deaths and 2147 wounded are the results of the uprising according to the National Fact-Finding Commission report, published earlier in May this year, the report does not count those jailed, tortured and or killed during the 23 years long Ben Ali regime.

Huge sacrifices were made in hope to lead a thorough democratization of the Country. Free and democratic elections took place and it was thought that Ben Ali’s notorious regime is gone. A vast majority of the people who voted for the ruling coaling were hoping for the best, for the corrupt machine to be repaired and for fair and democratic institutions to be implemented. These were expected to happen quickly since the leading party is one that fears and praises God.

Yet violence, rise of prices, money smuggling, accusations, endless debates on foreign questions such as polygamy, distractions from real demands and the over growth of the religious aspect is what camouflages today’s Tunisia.

Unemployment rate reached 18.1% on the first quarter of 2012 according to the results of the Labour Force survey compared with 13% in 2010.

Over the past 7 months, the Household Consumption Price Index (CPI) has dramatically increased to 5.5% compared to 1.1% between October 2010 and October 2011, according to the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics.

These are couple of measurable indicators among many others showing the deterioration of the economy in the Country that sparked the often referred to ‘Arab Spring’.

There is a palpable dissatisfaction towards both the Government and the National Constitutional Assembly, thus numerous reactions are being seen: protests, marches, sit-ins, campaigns etc. However, the one that got my attention is a sort of creative campaign carried out by a youth-led group, ‘Sawty’ (my Voice), an organization that seeks to promote democracy and encourage young people to take hold of their citizenship, continuing the demand for the Tunisians most pressing revolution goal beside employment: the new Constitution.

The campaign was simple: distributing booklets near downtown Tunis. The strength of the campaign was in the cover stating ‘The Tunisian Constitution’, however all the inside pages were actually blank. On the back cover it was written: ‘The draft of Tunisia’s new constitution should have been finished by July 15th, 2012 but we are still waiting. The constitution is late, so we must ask for it.’

Speaking to Tunisia Live, 25 year old Ali Bouzwida is ‘Sawty’ Project Coordinator, said ‘the idea of a campaign named ‘Where is the Constitution?’ came about when the Constitution was not ready on the date Mustafa Ben Jaafer, Head of the National Constituent Assembly, announced’.

‘We tried to think of something that would sensitise people to this issue, something innovative. Instead of marches, protests, we wanted something clear that would trigger fruitful debate;’ Added Ali.

A campaign related video, uploaded to YouTube, features people rushing to pick up copies of their long waited for Constitution. Reactions vary between confusion and shock, to flipping through blank pages but they all smiled at the end acknowledging they have got the message.

Now almost 6 weeks separate us from the theoretic end of the Coalition’s (Troika) rule led by moderate Islamic party Ennahda. Meanwhile, new political parties from different spectrums are appearing, others are joining hands in preparation for the next elections, but the questions remain: How long do Tunisians need to suffer the damaged Country’s machine and put up with the human rights violations, insecurity and corruption? And when will we actually have our Constitution?




Ahmed Manaï “The Arab League has buried the observers report on Syria”

Interview by Lilia Weslaty, translated by Kacem Jlidi.


As one of 166 observers from the Arab League in Syria, we interviewed Ahmed Manaï, former UN international expert, militant for a democratic Tunisia and author of “Tunisian torture – The Secret Garden General Ben Ali.”

Nawaat: What was your reaction, as a Tunisian member of the observers sent by the Arab League, facing the Sino-Russian veto on the draft resolution of the UN Security Council on Syria?

AM: A great satisfaction for the Syrian people and Syria, their present and future. The Sino-Russian veto saved a country, the cradle of human and Arab civilization, from total destruction to which destined him and other Arab powers of the war were about to make him suffer. With this veto Syria will not know, I hope the fate of Iraq so close with its million deaths, its 3 million orphans, its two million widows, its four million refugees and his unstructured society. It will not know the uncertain fate of Libya, unstructured and disjointed.

Nawaat: You wrote on your Facebook page that the decision that “to return the Syrian ambassador” of Tunisia emanates not from the President Marzouki but from Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist party Ennahdha and Qatar, where from you hold this information?

AM: I’d like to remind you first that there is no Syrian ambassador in Tunis since more than a year, but just a vice affairs handler.

We don’t need to draw this kind of information to any other source than Mr. Ghannouchi himself. All is needed is to just go back to his statements and recall, for example, the one he made in November 2011, I believe, in which he “decided” that Tunisia would return the Syrian ambassador. He declared later, “He would render the embassies each of Yemen and Syria to the opponents of the two countries” probably unaware of the Geneva Convention governing diplomatic and consular relations.

He was only the leader of a political party that won elections.
Fortunately, the government at that time had tempered his zeal. Now he is everything and decides everything, still in no other quality than that of chairman of a party leader of the majority in the National Constituent Assembly.

Why Qatar? Because this country, a subcontractor of dirty work, which drives the “Arab initiative” had ordered all countries under its supervision, to accompany the meeting of the Security Council on 04/02, with a concerted action to break with Syria. They thought of everything except the double veto. He also gave instructions to some Medias to heat up the atmosphere a little more. The Syrian CNT has recommended to his followers to occupy the Syrian embassies around the world and its militants and armed groups to distinguish themselves by large scale action. However, I must admit that I have friends in the league who have confirmed to me certain things, including the unconditional alignment of the Tunisian delegation to the Arab League in Qatar.
On the other hand, it is all in line with the approach between the “brothers” and their Arab allies, Turkish and Western.

Nawaat: What do you think of the decision itself to « return the ambassador » ?

AM: I recall that Tunisia has sent an official delegation that participated in drafting the report of the Arab mission in Syria. If the Tunisian decision-makers had consulted the members of this delegation on the situation in Syria, they surely would have advised them otherwise. I also do not know if these decision-makers were aware of this mission that includes ambassadors, senior officials and officers.

So what do I think? This is a hasty decision, taken by diplomacy and international relations amateurs, unaware of the harm they do to the interests and image of a country that has long been distinguished for its wise and balanced diplomacy, or so, a decision dictated by someone stronger than them!
Curiously none of the powers which were about a few weeks ago to launch their planes over Syria has used the severance of relations with it.

Nawaat: Who are the different agents (There has been talk of Iran, Hizb Allah, Iraqis …) involved in the events taking place in Syria since March 2011? Can you please clarify more on these actors?

AM: Iran and Hezbollah are strategic allies of the Syrians. The Iraqis, on the contrary, were in bad terms with them, though now we witness their reconciliation.

Would they be involved in the events in Syria? I do not think the Syrians would need anyone’s help to manage the situation within their country. Many Medias spoke of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Pasdaran who would get involved in the repression of demonstrators. It’s just propaganda. But it is certain that they cooperate full in intelligence, for example.

There are other countries fully involved in the Syrian crisis: what are the Gulf countries headed by Qatar, Turkey and all NATO countries. Among these, there are those who welcome the armed groups on their soil, others do the funding, others train them and others provide them with media coverage.
There are other big players, such as Russians and Chinese, but as we saw in the last Security Council’s vote, their role is primarily supportive.
But there are also, in addition to these states, few highly influential political movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

Nawaat: What do you think of media coverage in Syria? What about the censorship?

AM: There is foreign media coverage on Syria and another in Syria.
One of the questions included in the protocol to which the observers’ mission should meet, concerns the media and their working conditions. The final report including the following response:
“Checking the granted approvals by the Syrian government to Arab and international medias, and investigates the possibilities for these medias to move freely in all parts of Syria ..

41 – The Syrian government, speaking through his minister of information, confirmed that he had granted approval to 147 different Arab and foreign medias since the beginning of December 2011 and until 15.01.2012. 112 various foreign medias have visited the new Syrian territory joining more than 90 medias already on Syrian territory who have permanent correspondents.

42 – The Mission has followed this issue and noted the presence of36 Arab and foreign medias and a certain number of journalists in a number of Syrian cities. She has received some complaints indicating that the Syrian government has granted permits for certain medias to operate in Syria for a period not exceeding four days, considered insufficient duration of their views, in addition to not allow their movement inside the country unless they indicate their destination beforehand and request another certification to get to certain sensitive areas. The Syrian government is willing to provide the media with renewable mandates of 10 days.

43 – Reports and statements by some sectors of the Mission show the existence of governmental restrictions on the Medias’ movement of media in the opposition sectors, prompting the journalists to move, in many cases, behind the movement of the mission to perform their duties.

44 – The city of Homs witnessed the murder of a French journalist working for France 2, and the injury of a journalist from Belgium. On both cases, the government and opposition have traded accusations over the responsibility each of these incidents and they have published statements each condemning the opposing party. The Syrian government has set up an investigative governmental commission to determine the causes of the incidents. It should be noted that the Mission reports of the Arab League in Homs indicate that the French journalist was killed after mortar fire from the opposition.
About the role of international Medias, to answer, there is about sixty television channels, throughout the country, which discharge continuously and in all languages a flood of lies and shameless propaganda on the situation in Syria.

Nawaat: Back to “veto”: It had been almost a year when Russia and China along with Germany, Brazil, and India abstained regarding the 1973 resolution authorizing the use of force against the Gaddafi regime in Libya. How do you explain the use of this veto, this time, in the case of Syria?

AM: The 1973 resolution on Libya passed to ensure the protection of civilian populations has been hijacked by the NATO countries. The result of the NATO war against Libya, still little known to the public, has been catastrophic. Russia and China, had not exercised their right of veto, believing perhaps that the resolution would be enforced to the letter. There is also that Libya, even with its oil production by almost 4% of world production, has not the same strategic weight as Syria, whose oil production is almost negligible.

The Sino-Russian double veto has prevented the lock Syria from breaking, and also both countries from becoming the next targets of the West. It is above all the affirmation of the end of a world dominated by the United States and return to a binary world. There is another reason that was explained by the head of Russian diplomacy that there was a secret clause in this resolution authorizing the use of armed intervention.

Nawaat: Russia and China have an interest in maintaining Bashar Al Assad on the head of the Syrian regime, for purely economic reasons that would be hampered in case of an embargo on the arms: According to the Russian think tank Cast, Syria bought $700 million of arms from Russia in 2010, up to 7% of the Russian sales sector… Why the international community and international media seem offended by the Sino-Russian veto already announced by the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin on October 4th, 2011 and then this Thursday, February 2nd, 2012?

A.M: States do not have feelings but interests. Certainly the Russians and Chinese have many economic, commercial and strategic interests with Syria. Arms sales constitute only a tiny part.

Nawaat: The massacre in Homs, killing more than 200 lives, the deadliest since the events started, does it seem suspicious to you?

A.M: This massacre is signed and its authors are making fun of our intelligence. Is it possible to believe for a moment, a government, whatever it is, could commit such a massacre on the day his case is brought before the Security Council?

In fact, this is a stunt as part of a comprehensive and concerted intervened where the “Syrian activists” abroad to fill the Syrian embassies and consulates, “referring to the call of Syrian ambassadors in Arab countries and of course the massacre of Homs.
While this massacre: those who followed the TV that day have seen pictures of many victims. Most of these victims had their hands tied behind their backs and some had their faces to the ground.

The directors told us that they were the victims of the bombing of buildings and houses by tanks and even by the Syrian Air Force. Curiously these victims were not wearing injuries nor any sign of the collapse of their houses and dwellings. Each can draw the conclusions he wants. In any case throughout the 4th of February, Syrian citizens testified that they recognized among the victims, relatives and neighbors removed for a week and even months.
Each can draw the conclusions he wants.

Nawaat: In response to this veto and following the massacre of Homs who had many echoes in the international arena, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the Russian and Chinese leaders will have on their hands any further bloodshed. What do you think of this upsurge of tension and sets of interests between China and Russia on one side facing the United States, France and the UK on the other side, all permanent members of the Security Council?

AM: The best response made to Susan Rice, came from the UN Syrian ambassador, which reminded her of the 60 vetoes of the United States to derail the resolutions condemning Israel. But there is a thinly veiled threat in Rice’s statement, because blood may leak in Syria. The anti-Syrian coalition will continue its campaign to destabilize Syria and is considering running soon to the UN Assembly to provide a right to intervene militarily.
Overall we are experiencing a return of a cold war this time with a more powerful Russia and  China, ensured the support from a number of emerging countries, with a west facing declining crisis.

Nawaat: On January 8, the Russian warships have docked at the Russian naval base located at the Port of Tartous in Syria, something already planned since August 2010… With this veto, would we be in a disastrous phase of a war preparation whose allies seem increasingly defined?

A.M : After the occupation war on Iraq and the shameful withdrawal of U.S. troops, it is difficult to believe that Americans can re-engage in a war involving the presence of their troops on the ground. Thus they chose, in the case of Libya, to involve the NATO aviation and support them in the end.

This scenario is not valid in the Syrian case because Syria is a relatively large power and has very powerful allies. Therefore, the anti-Syrian coalition has chosen to implode from within the country by creating, funding, arming and leading outbreaks of rebellion.
Are we on the eve of a war? If there is a war, it will not be confined to the borders of the Middle East, everyone is convinced even the wildest and those who make the plans!

Après la guerre d’occupation de l’Irak, puis le retrait honteux des troupes américaines, il est difficile de croire que les américains puissent s’engager de nouveau dans une guerre impliquant une présence de leurs troupes au sol. C’est ainsi qu’ils ont choisi, dans le cas libyen, de faire intervenir l’aviation de l’OTAN et de leur apporter un soutien au final.

Nawaat: By continuing to work with the Syrian regime and the devided Syrian opposition, the Arab League seems to believe in a possible ‘political solution’ to the Syrian crisis, in a way President Bashar Al-Assad delegates his powers to Vice President to form, within two months, a government of national unity that would lead the country to free elections.
The Sino-Russian veto blocks the resolution, what kind of pressure you feel is preparing to kneel Bashar Al Assad?

AM: The Arab League is entirely discredited by burying the report of its own observers’ mission and its appeal to the Security Council. It missed the opportunity to participate in the settlement of the Syrian affair. All it can offer in the future will be worthless.
Now it’s Russia’s turn to play the lead role but also to the Syrian leadership required to accelerate and implement the reforms.

Nawaat: In your opinion, what is the true weight of the CNS (pro military intervention) and the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change (against intervention and which is rarely we hear from it in the international media)?

AM: The CNS does not have a good reputation in Syria precisely because it calls for armed intervention. The Syrians have a long tradition of patriotism and a high history of resistance to foreign domination. By cons, abroad, it is a media darling and favorite partner of politicians, who support and finance.
Besides the CNS does not have representatives inside the country and one of its components, the Kurds, has just left it.
It’s different in the case of the Coordination Committee, because its representatives are almost all activists within the country, and have no spokesman abroad, Haytham Manna. It is quite normal that we do not speak of this Committee in the propaganda and disinformation’s Medias that support the intervention.

Nawaat: How do you assess the actions taken by deserters from the Syrian army? Do you have evidence to prove that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) commits acts of barbarism?

AM: The report of on the Arab observers’ mission reported the existence of FSA and other armed groups who attack governmental forces, carry out the abduction of civilians who are released only against payment of ransom, murder, sabotage oil facilities, civil buildings, trains and railways…

Nawaat: Dernière question : peut-on être pour ou contre le régime de Bashar Al Assad et du Président syrien en lui-même ?

Nawaat: Last question: can we be for or against the regime of Bashar Al Assad and the Syrian president himself?

AM: Those who believe that the departure of a president would solve all the problems of the country, are simply idiots. We were unable to learn from the examples of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen and agree that the aftermath of dictatorship are often harder to manage than the dictatorship itself because oppositions have not yet learned to govern!


Discontent over an animated movie stirs violent clashes between Islamists and Freedom Fighters

“I was in front of the courthouse. A man ripped off the sign on which I wrote “In the Quran, even Satan have the right to speak.” Other men called me a “disbeliever”… Another man came next to me and threatened me: “get away from here or we’ll make you disappear”… Other bearded men with black flags treat freedom expression defenders with ‘disbelievers’ and other slogans that I cannot remember now…”

It’s with these words Lilia Weslaty, human rights activist and journalist, describes her today’s participation to the support gathering for the Tunisian television channel, Nessma TV and to freedom of expression.

On the other side, numerous Salafists chanted slogans such “hey Coward Media; Muslim people don’t get insulted “and” the people want the fall of the channel.”

They also chanted a slogan inspired from one of Gadhafi’s speeches “street, street, house, house, we’re after you disbelievers”. A slogan interpreted as a shaming being inspired from the speech of a bloody dictator and for categorizing Tunisians into two camps.

Today’s trial is the result of the broadcast of award-winning film ‘Persepolis’ on the 1979 Iranian Revolution, told from the perspective of a little girl. The French animated movie aired in late October provoked angry reactions and is alleged to be blasphemous because it includes a scene showing a representation of God.

Criminal proceedings against the owner of a Tunisian television channel, that screened the film ‘Persepolis’ is an affront to freedom of expression – declared Amnesty International before the trial, scheduled for today, January 23rd.

Nabil Karoui, owner of Nessma TV, is being judged for violation of “sacred values” and “disturbing public order”. A complaint was filed against the owner and two employees of Nessma TV by 144 people, including lawyers. If convicted, he might be sentenced up to 3 years in prison.

Nabil Karoui’s house was set on fire on October 14th following a demonstration outside the offices of Nessma TV, in the center of Tunis. A group of Salafists is suspected to be after the incident.

“It is very disturbing to see Nabil Karoui prosecuted only because he released a film showing scenes conceived of God, said Philip Luther, Acting Director of the program in North Africa and Middle East at Amnesty International.

The trial got postponed to April 19thcouple of lawyers explained today that their position is to defend the Spirit of God harmed by the cartoon representation. They claim respecting the freedom expression by carrying their discontent to court. “Every society has it’s own sacred beliefs to be respected and that’s the limit of freedom of expression”, says one of the lawyers.

Nabil Karoui announced today his discontent with the ban on the media to film the trial unlike the first time. He mentioned this is not a good sign.

This is the first opinion case in new Tunisia. Today they are not judging Nabil Karoui, yet they are judging ten million Tunisians and their dreams of democracy, freedoms and progress.

“I’m optimist but also feeling sorry. We’re being judged here. They burnt my house and tried to kill few of the people they work with me and my family. Those who did this are still free out there. I hope Tunisia won’t turn into a Freedoms’ Guantanamo”.

A Salafist guy is caught on tape today calling not to use violence against those who support Nessma TV’s case.

Nevertheless, a number of well-known journalists and public figures have been subject to verbal and physical violence today. Zied Krichen and Hamadi Redissi a law professor at Tunis University were subject to moral and physical attacks by Slafists gathering in front of the courthouse.

“I had to go out for a coffee before returning to the courtroom. And that’s where some individuals, targeted me personally and assaulted me. The academic Hamadi, who tried to protect me was also verbally abused and received the same punches and kicks”, says Zied Krichen.

Hamadi J’bali, Prime Minister of the newly elected government denounced the attacks in a word aired later in the day.

Abd Halim Masoodi, journalist and TV presenter at Nessma TV got equally assaulted today. Reasons might be linked to one of his late debates where he interrupted his guest Kamel Chihawi, a university professor claiming the broadcast of French-Iranian animated movie being part of a bigger agenda. A plan aiming at influencing the people and scare them from the Islamists.

Or how else you explain the broadcast of such a movie only 2 weeks prior the elections, he said.

Questioned later, the TV presenter mentioned being present today to support the TV channel not as a journalist but a regular citizen who supports freedom of expression.

A group of people gathered around me in a scary way acting as they hold the sole truth and the sole answer. They treated me of Atheist and non-believer and they hit me. He adds.

Tunisian journalists have been the target of multiple attacks in recent months, led by members of the security forces and others, according to reports.

“Tunisia is progressing in some areas of human rights, but it clearly has much work to be done to respect freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther.

Today’s trial is echoing hard in different corners of the Tunisian web and also traditional media.

The recent Amnesty International report entitled “A year of rebellion. The human rights situation in the Middle East and North Africa” shows that the provisional government of Tunisia has not yet developed the comprehensive reform of human rights demanded by the demonstrators since a year ago.

One year after the ouster of former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali over a series of street demonstrations ignited by the self-immolation of a young man from the semi-rural city of Sidi Bouzid on December 17th, the authorities have taken some initial positive steps, including the adoption of important treaties on human rights and giving, in general, more freedom to the media and organizations defending human rights.

In most cases, however, the country’s security forces are still not brought to account for their actions and victims of human rights violations continue to wait for justice – conducted Amnesty International in a recent press communique.