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Al Jazeera journalist in Tunisia released two days after arrest




Tunisian authorities released Al Jazeera reporter, Samir Sassi, two days after he had been arrested on undisclosed grounds, his lawyer said.

Sassi, 55, was taken into custody late Wednesday after police had raided his house and seized electronic devices, according to Lotfi Hajji, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Tunis.

There has been no official comment from Tunisian authorities over Sassi’s arrest.

The journalist’s lawyer, Ayachi Hammami, was unable to say whether Sassi now faces criminal charges.

Tunisia has come under criticism for a crackdown on freedom of speech, including the arrests of more than 30 journalists in 2023, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

Local media in the North African country have reported that Sassi was suspected of “membership in a terrorist group”, noting links to President Kais Saied’s political nemesis Ennahdha party.

Another Tunisian journalist, Zied El Heni, was placed in police custody on Monday while awaiting trial after criticising Tunisian Commerce Minister Kalthoum Ben Rejeb in a radio show he hosts.

Zied Dabbar, president of Tunisian press union SNJT, decried “pure intimidation” by authorities and told AFP that increasing violations of media freedoms were “scandalous and worrying”.

Al Jazeera’s Tunisia bureau has been closed since President Saied’s swift power grab in July 2021, but the network’s journalists remained accredited and maintained their coverage.

Authorities did not provide a reason for shutting down the bureau at the time.

The United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said last year he was “deeply concerned” over the crackdown on media in Tunisia, with vaguely worded legislation used to criminalise criticism.

Seventeen journalists in Tunisia currently face trial, according to local media. Two of them remain behind bars.

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