INTERNATIONAL – Freedom of the press abused. The daily correspondent Release in Tunisia was brutalized on Friday January 14 by police officers and prevented from covering a demonstration against President Kais Saied, denounced the French newspaper and the association of foreign correspondents in North Africa.
“While covering a demonstration against President Kais Saied on Friday, our correspondent Mathieu Galtier was violently beaten by several police officers. The management of the newspaper strongly condemns this aggression”, reacted Release on his site.
In a statement published this Saturday, January 15, the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) denounced “strongly the barbaric violence” of the police against journalists who were in the field on January 14.
20 attacks on journalists
According to the SNJT, more than 20 police attacks have been recorded against journalists, “targeted while they were wearing their distinctive vests and reporting their status as journalists during the attack”.
These attacks, also against demonstrators, “establish the state of police repression instead of the state of republican security”, added the same source.
Demonstrations were organized in the Tunisian capital against the president on Friday, also marking the 11th anniversary of the fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
The rallies, banned by the government, were brutally dispersed by the security forces, giving rise to scenes of violence rarely seen in the capital. Mathieu Galtier relayed photos on Twitter with comments to shed light on the situation. In particular, he mentioned the dispersal of the crowd with water cannons and tear gas.
Big step forward at MV. Convergence underway at the clock. tear gas output #tunis
— Mathieu Galtier (@mathieu_galtier) January 14, 2022
His Twitter feed about the events then suddenly stops. “Mathieu Galtier was filming the muscular arrest of a demonstrator with his mobile phone when he was attacked by a uniformed policeman”, explains Release.
The correspondent, quoted by the newspaper, explains that he immediately identified himself as a journalist in French and Arabic, while the policeman tried to take his phone. The journalist then saw himself “lifted and dragged between two vans”.
“They started hitting me all over the place, I was on the ground, curled up in a fetal position, I was shouting that I was a journalist. One of them sprayed me with gas at close range. They kicked me. Finally, they took my phone, my press card and they left me there,” he says.
NAFCC calls for investigation
Once treated by the firefighters, the correspondent indicates that his belongings were returned to him, with the exception of the memory card of his telephone on which his images and videos were recorded.
The journalist, who has been living in Tunisia for six years, has been prescribed “fifteen days off”. A doctor notably noted “a scratch 10 centimeters in diameter” on the forehead”.
The Association of Foreign Correspondents in North Africa (NAFCC) also condemns in a press release “the violence exerted by the security forces on the journalists who covered the mobilizations” in Tunis where “a level of violence never known since the creation of NAFCC in 2014″.
“A photographer was notably beaten and a videojournalist hustled and prevented from filming”, adds the association which calls for the opening of an investigation “without delay”.
See also on Then24: Against “the coup” of President Saied, thousands of Tunisians in the street