Tunisian anti-terrorism unit arrests Al Jazeera reporter -union

TUNIS (Reuters) – A Tunisian anti-terrorism unit arrested Al Jazeera reporter Samir Sassi late on Wednesday, the Tunisian journalists’ union said.

The unit has searched his home and seized his computer and phone, as well as those of his family members, the union said in a statement on Thursday.

The union denounced the arrest as “arbitrary” and alluded to the possibility of Sassi being investigated for a suspected terrorism charge, since his lawyer is not allowed to talk to him for 48 hours.

Al Jazeera’s Tunis bureau chief, Lotfi Hajji, said on his Facebook account that security forces did not tell Sassi’s family why he was arrested.

On Monday, Tunisia’s judicial authorities ordered the pre-trial detention of journalist Zied El-Heni on the charge of defamation, after he criticized the trade minister.

Freedom of speech and media were key gains for Tunisians after the 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the “Arab Spring” protests.

But activists and journalists say freedom of speech has been deteriorating since President Kais Saied assumed wide powers in 2021. Saied has said his actions were needed to save Tunisia from chaos under what he calls a corrupt elite.

(Reporting by Latifa Guesmi in Tunis; Writing by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Matthew Lewis)