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Deiss to discuss press freedom in Tunisia

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, is beginning a visit to Tunisia where he is expected to discuss human rights and press freedom. The visit comes as pressure mounts over Tunisia's alleged abuse of the journalist, Taoufik Ben Brick (pictured).

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, is beginning a two-day visit to Tunisia where he is expected to discuss the issue of human rights and press freedom during talks with his Tunisian counterpart, Habib Ben Yahia. The visit comes as pressure mounts on the Tunisian government over its alleged abuse of journalists, in particular the hunger striker, Taoufik Ben Brick (pictured).

The Tunisian journalist has been refusing food since April 3, in an effort to highlight his treatment at the hands of the authorities. Last year a Tunisian court confiscated Ben Brick's passport and ordered him to stop writing about human rights abuses in the country.

The court has also charged Ben Brick with libel after articles critical of the Tunisian government were published in two Swiss newspapers, the Tribune de Geneve and the Courrier de Geneve. Since then he has been under virtual house arrest with police preventing foreign journalists from visiting him.

The Swiss foreign ministry would not say whether Deiss would try to visit Ben Brick, but spokesman Ruedi Christen said the affair would certainly be raised in the meeting with Ben Yahia on Tuesday.

"When you are talking about human rights and liberty of expression," Christen told Swissinfo, "you cannot do this without talking about the case of Ben Brick."

Aside from the issue of human rights, Deiss and Ben Yahia are also expected to talk about the general situation in north west Africa, and discuss relations between Switzerland and Tunisia.

After his arrival in Tunisia late on Monday, Deiss will attend a dinner at the Swiss embassy to which several Tunisian journalists have been invited.

by Mark Ledsom





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