Al Jazeera Reporter Released After Arrest in Tunisia Raises Concerns About Freedom of Speech

TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisian authorities have released Al Jazeera reporter Samir Sassi, just two days after his arrest, according to his lawyer. Sassi, 55, was taken into custody on Wednesday after police raided his home and seized his electronic devices. The reasons for his arrest have not been disclosed by Tunisian authorities. Sassi’s lawyer was unable to confirm if he will face any criminal charges in relation to the case.

The release of Samir Sassi comes amidst concerns over the freedom of speech in Tunisia. The International Federation of Journalists has criticized the Tunisian government for cracking down on media, with over 30 journalists being arrested in 2023 alone.

Local media in Tunisia has reported that Sassi was suspected of having ties to a terrorist group and connections to President Kais Saied’s political rival, the Ennahdha party. Another journalist, Zied El Heni, was also placed in police custody earlier this week for criticizing Tunisian Commerce Minister Kalthoum Ben Rejeb during a radio show.

Tunisian press union SNJT’s president, Zied Dabbar, has condemned the increasing violations of media freedoms in the country, describing them as “scandalous and worrying”.

Al Jazeera’s Tunisia bureau has remained closed since President Saied’s power grab in July 2021, however, the network’s journalists have continued to report on events in the country.

Last year, the United Nations human rights chief expressed deep concern over the crackdown on media in Tunisia, highlighting the use of vaguely worded legislation to stifle criticism.

Currently, 17 journalists in Tunisia are facing trial, with two of them still being held in detention.

In summary, Al Jazeera reporter Samir Sassi has been released by Tunisian authorities two days after his arrest. The move comes amidst concerns over the freedom of speech in the country, with multiple journalists facing trial and crackdowns on media freedoms reported. The situation has drawn criticism from international organizations, including the United Nations.