Nawaat journalist and activist Ramzi Bettaib (aka “Winston Smith”) has now entered his fifth day on hunger strike.
Bettaieb is protesting against confiscation of his cameras as he tried to cover trials at the Military Tribunal of El Kef in the investigation of the murder of protesters during the 2011 Tunisian revolution — often dubbed the Martyrs’ Case. An army commandant at the tribunal accused him of collaborating with “foreign forces”.
Journalists are allowed to film for only three minutes during court hearings. Bettaieb told Le Courrier de l’Atlas that he feels “frustrated and revolted” by the rule. He began his hunger strike in order to push military authorities to allow journalists and activists to cover legal proceedings in the case “without any restrictions”.
“The Tunisian people have the right to know the truth”, he added.
The Tunisian uprising claimed the lives of more than three hundred persons, most of them protesters calling for socio-economic and political reforms. The Martyrs’ case was transferred to the Military Justice, often blamed for its lack of transparency, and its slow pace of investigation. So far no high-ranking officials have been convicted in the killings.
Houcem Hajlaoui, another Nawaat journalist, and Yassine Ayari, a blogger, have both gone on hunger strike in support of Bettaieb.
“Houcem Hajlaoui and I, we are on our second day of hunger strike. We will stand by Ramzi, and we will follow whatever he does, or decides till the end” said Yassine Ayari today.
Anonymous political cartoonist _Z_ has contributed with his art to Bettaieb’s cause. He drew a cartoon where Rachid Ammar, the Chief of Staff of the Tunisian Armed Forces is depicted as a puppeteer. In one hand, he holds a judge, in the other a police officer, his eyes are fixed on Ramzi Bettaieb and his camera.
In a blog post today, _Z_ wrote:
“My friends, this is another battle for a new State philosophy, a philosophy whereby censorship, lack of transparency, and repugnance for citizens and all the defects which have been poisoning Tunisia disappear once and for all and join ZABA (a nickname given to former Dictator Zeine el-Abidin Ben Ali) in Saudi Arabia. Let’s support Wisnton against Big Brother!”