The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists for press freedom, today vehemently condemned the raid on the Al Jazeera office in Tunis and urged the Tunisian government to respect press freedom.

According to media reports, the office of Al Jazeera television network in the Tunisian capital Tunis, was raided by the police this morning. Some 10 heavily armed police officers entered the network’s office without a warrant and asked the staff to leave. When questioned by the staff, the police officials said that the raid was being carried out on the instructions from the government.  The mobile phones and other equipment of reporters were seized, and they were not allowed to enter the building to collect their belonging.

“The raid on Al Jazeera office is a gross violation of press freedom and an act of intimidation to silence independent media”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “We are seriously concerned that the recent dismissal of the Prime Minister and suspension of Parliament be signs that the country is heading towards autocracy, in which critical and independent media is not tolerated.”

The raid on Al Jazeera took place soon after President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended the parliament following widespread, violent protests in several cities against the government’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic and faltering economy.

In a statement, the President said that he would assume direct control and rule with the help of the new Prime Minister. While, the President’s decision has been condemned by political parties and the speaker of Parliament, it was celebrated by the protestors in the streets.