Sami Ben Gharbia, co-founder and director of the Nawaat editorial team, was summoned yesterday, 3 May 2017, by the Central Investigation Brigade of the National Guard in L’Aouina. Upon his arrival, he was primarily questioned about the source of the Presidency of the Republic’s leaked action plan lobbying for its « economic and financial reconciliation draft law. » We consider the proceedings, which coincided with World Press Freedom Day, to be an aberration. Faced with Ben Gharbia’s determination to protect our sources as per article 11 of Decree-Law 115, the interrogation lasted 6 hours and gave way to harassment, focusing on Nawaat’s internal functioning, the identity of its journalists (identity cards, telephone numbers, etc.) and the list of Nawaat’s collaborators, with the intention of interrogating them one by one.
This is the fourth time that the director of Nawaat’s editorial team has been summoned to appear before authorities in less than a year. « Questions concerning Nawaat’s internal structure and mode of functioning and the identity of its journalists constitute a dangerous turning point. Worse, intimidation and the threat of subjecting all members of the editorial team to interrogation is without precedent since the revolution. » Nawaat’s lawyer Oussem Helal affirmed that the investigator informed him that « the investigation was opened following the Presidency’s request and in accordance with the oral instructions of an alleged employee of the procurer’s office. » We point out that these pressures come following slander campaigns carried out against non-governmental organizations by different political and media figures suspected of corruption.
For Riadh Guerfali, lawyer and executive co-director of Nawaat, « the protection of our sources is sacred. We will never reveal them. Even if we must spend the rest of our days behind bars. For the identity cards and telephone numbers of our collaborators, this is personal information which is protected by the law. We will share absolutely nothing, except on the grounds of a judicial mandate with a legal basis. As for the list of our collaborators, it is already public and available on Nawaat’s website. » It is important to note that Nawaat, guided by its citizen conviction, has always expressed its willingness to cooperate with the Justice in the investigations that we publish. The imperative of the confidentiality of our sources is a red line, as is the protection of our journalists.
Nawaat condemns the harassment of its editorial team’s director as well as the manifest intention of authorities to attack its journalists. We consider these shameful proceedings as a serious threat against the freedom of expression and the right to organize. We pledge to our readers and to the public opinion to never give in to pressures and intimidation. Nawaat resisted the repression of dictatorship and will resist still more under the protection of the Tunisian Consitution, ratified international conventions, laws, and above all, the Tunisian courts. It is under the protection of these same courts that we will continue to publish leaks, including those from the Presidency of the Republic, if the occasion presents itself.