Tunisia arrests 3 journalists in morality dispute

Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:13pm GMT

TUNIS Feb 16 (Reuters) - Three Tunisian journalists have been arrested after publishing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with a nude woman, raising fears of a media crackdown by the country's new Islamist rulers.

The Attounissia newspaper printed a photograph on Wednesday of German-Tunisian football player Sami Khedira of Real Madrid dressed in a tuxedo with his hands covering the breasts of his otherwise naked German model girlfriend, Lena Gercke.

The photograph drew an angry response from the country's public prosecutor who ordered the detention of Nasreddine Ben Said, Attounissia's publisher, Habib Guizani, its editor-in- chief, and Hedi Hidhri, the editor of its world section, according to Chokri Nafti, a spokesman for the Justice ministry.

The three were accused of offending public morality and would be held pending the results of the investigation, he added.

The trio are the first journalists to be arrested since the revolution a year ago which ousted Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who had tightly censored the media.

The arrests have raised fears among secular Tunisians that the Islamist-led government will increasingly seek to censor material it deems offensive to its religious morals.

Tunisia's journalists' union called in a statement for the "immediate release of all journalists and the rejection of intimidation against reporters."

On Facebook, thousands of Tunisians launched a campaign to support the journalists and to defend freedom of expression.

"This issue is political and aims to quell the voice of the media and stop it criticizing the government .. it is a very serious indicator," Jihen Lagmari, a journalist at Attounissia told Reuters   Continued...

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