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Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 14:54 UK

Tunisia reporter move 'bodes ill'

A man reads a paper in Tunis, file image
The group says media freedom is already extremely limited

A group of pro-government reporters has seized control of Tunisia's largest journalism union two months before a general election, activists say.

Reporters Without Borders says it is concerned for the independence of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists.

The group says the move bodes ill for the fairness of the forthcoming vote, where President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is going for a fifth term in office.

Tunisian officials have not yet responded to the allegations.

Members of Tunisia's journalism union accused pro-government reporters of using internal regulations to take over.

Union President Neji Bghouri told the pressure group: "This was a government takeover of an organisation that was meant to be independent and autonomous."

Reporters Without Borders said the move "bodes ill not only for the union's independence but also for Tunisia's already extremely limited degree of press freedom".

President Ben Ali has been in power since a bloodless coup in 1987.

He changed the constitution in 2002 to allow himself more time in office and has polled more than 90% of the vote in each of the four previous elections.

He is regularly criticised for tolerating no internal dissent.



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