Tunisia defies French government, bans Le Monde journalist

The Tunisian government has rejected a request by France to allow a journalist from the daily Le Monde to enter the country to cover Sunday’s national elections, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday. “When we heard about the difficulties (she) encountered in obtaining accreditation, we instructed our ambassador in Tunis to go to the Tunisian authorities to support her demand, but the attempt was unsuccessful,” the spokesman said.

The journalist, Florence Beauge, who writes about North African issues for Le Monde, was stopped at the Tunis airport late Tuesday and expelled from the country.

Beauge said she was not told the reason for her expulsion. She said it may have been prompted by articles she had written recently in which she was critical of the treatment by the Tunisian government of opposition politicians and human rights activists.

In Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, incumbent Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 73, is almost certain to win another five-year term. He has won the past two elections with, respectively, 99.66 and 94.48 per cent of the vote and has ruled the country since 1987.

Ben Ali’s potentially strongest opponent, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, dropped out of the race in August in protest of election conditions. His party, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), said earlier this month it would boycott the elections because they were fixed.

The PDP had already been blocked from competing in 17 districts after authorities ruled its applications ineligible. That would have meant that 80 per cent of Tunisians would be unable to cast votes for the party.



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