Naziha Rjiba

Naziha RjibaNaziha Rjiba (also known as Om Zied) is the editor of the Arabic language section of the on-line magazine Kalima ( Naziha Rjiba is also a human rights activist and is the vice president of the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d’édition et de création en Tunisie – OLPEC) –

Rjiba suffers relentless persecution because of her writings on the internet and the opinions she expresses on satellite TV. She is often harassed and is under continuous police surveillance. Her family has also recently become a target of persecution.

According to reports received by PEN in the days following the second phase of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunis between 16-18 November 2005, Rjiba received warnings from a source close to the government. He informed her that “the authorities were displeased over certain articles which she had written that criticised the excesses of those in power and the mounting corruption in politically elite circles” and she was told that reprisals against her and her family were being prepared. During the second phase of the WSIS Rjiba had been under tight police surveillance. Plain-clothed policemen had been stationed in her garden and her telephone line and internet connection had been cut. In the run up to the WSIS summit on 14 November 2005 Rjiba was manhandled by the police when she attempted to attend a preparatory meeting of the Citizens’ Summit on the Information Society at the Goethe institute. She reportedly suffered heart pains following the assault.

On 18 November 2003, Rjiba was given a eight-month suspended jail sentence and fined 1,200 Dinars (approx. $1,000 U.S.) for allegedly violating foreign currency laws. Human rights lawyers said at the time that the charges “are fabricated and aimed at tarnishing her image because of her political activities and courageous articles.” This suspended sentence and fine came after Rjiba criticised the overwhelming presence of President Ben Ali’s portraits in the public sphere. In a 2003 letter to the Tunisian minister of education, Rjiba sharply criticized the deterioration of the educational system during the previous decade and its use by the ruling party, Constitutional Democratic Rally, as a tool of propaganda. She called for a public debate, involving Tunisians of different trends, to prevent further deterioration of the system of education and to “save the schools of the Republic.” Rjiba, who was a schoolteacher for nearly three decades earned a reputation for campaigning for the inclusion of human rights concepts in the school curricula, presented her resignation to the Minister of Education. In December 1987, she wrote an article on President Ben Ali, nearly five weeks after his coup, to turn without delay his promise to democratise Tunisia into reality. The independent weekly Errai (The Opinion), which ran Rjiba’s piece, was banned and has never been seen in Tunisia’s news stands since then.

It was initially intended that the on-line magazine Kalima be published as an independent newspaper in Tunisia. However, as it proved impossible obtain the authority to do so from the Tunisian government, it was decided to publish Kalima as an on-line magazine with the first edition appearing in October 2000. The web-site is however blocked by the Tunisian authorities within Tunisia and so can only be accessed outside the country. Websites which offer any resistance whatsoever to the regime of President Ben Ali are frequently blocked within Tunisia.

Naziha Rjiba was a co-recipient of the 2005 Novib/PEN in November 2005 award along with her colleague Sihem Bensedrine who is the editor of the French language version of the on-line magazine Kalima.

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