Appeals court upholds sentence of more than 4 years for Tunisian journalist

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Court upholds sentence for Tunisian journalist

TUNIS, Tunisia — A Tunisian appeals court on Tuesday upheld a prison sentence of four years and one month for a journalist who covered protests that turned violent, the reporter’s lawyer said.

The conviction of Fahem Boukaddous, a correspondent for the satellite TV channel Al Hiwar Ettounsi, was upheld in absentia, defense lawyer Mohamed Abbou said.

The reporter was accused of “broadcasting information likely to disrupt the peace” and “belonging to a criminal association with the intent of harming people and property.”

Media advocacy groups and lawyers for Boukaddous and media advocacy groups say the charges were brought to punish him for just doing his job: covering 2008 protests over high unemployment in the Gafsa mining region that turned violent.

Boukaddous was not able to attend the appeals trial in the town of Gafsa, in southwest Tunisia, because he was hospitalized. The court refused to delay the appeal despite a doctor’s certificate explaining his respiratory problems and hospitalization, the lawyer said.

Boukaddous, who was left free pending the appeal, is still in the hospital but can be taken into custody at any time, the lawyer said.

The North African nation is considered relatively progressive on issues such as women’s rights, but is also known for having a strict government hand on the media and an overbearing police presence.

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