Tunisian blogger on hunger strike to ‘defend press freedom’
TUNIS — A Tunisian journalist said Tuesday he launched a hunger strike on May 28 to defend press freedom after military police seized the cameras he used to film the trial of ousted leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
Ramzi Bettaieb, who works for Nawaat, a collective blog, said his cameras were confiscated on May 21 when he filmed the trial of Ben Ali and 22 co-accused in the northwestern town of Kef over their role in crushing anti-regime protests.
“I am on a hunger strike to defend press freedom, our sole gain in the revolution,” the 36-year-old told AFP.
Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after being toppled in a popular uprising last year that sparked the Arab Spring revolts, is being tried in absentia.
His co-accused are ex-senior officials being prosecuted for the deaths of at least 22 people during the January 2011 pro-democracy protests in the towns of Thala and Kasserine. Many of the victims died when security forces fired live rounds.
Five other bloggers have joined Bettaieb in the hunger strike.
“The soldier who deprived Ramzi of his work equipment is depriving us Tunisians of the right to information,” a colleague wrote.
The army however said there was a ban on filming the hearings.
Bettaieb says he wanted to highlight the plight of those whose relatives were killed in the crackdown by the Ben Ali regime to stifle the revolt, which claimed some 340 lives and saw nearly 2,200 injured, according to the government.
Nawaat was created in April 2004 and blocked in Tunisia until January last year. It played a major role in channelling the opposition to Ben Ali’s long rule and covered protests that culminated in his ouster.