Tunisian journalists were left wondering on Saturday if the bad old days had returned after brutal police attacks as they tried to cover demonstrations against the new government.
A total of 15 reporters and photographers working for both the local and foreign media, male and female alike, were subject to beatings and insults and had their equipment seized on Thursday and Friday in the capital.
Marwa Rkik, 25, said she was giving a live report on the local Radio Kalima when she saw two plain-clothes policemen running at her, followed by another 10 in uniform.
"They beat me all over with clubs and with their helmets, and I needed five stitches to head wounds," she added, saying she was going to lodge a complaint for assault.
Rkik said she thought the police wanted their own back on the press for exposing their activities under the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali following the former president's ousting in January.
Friday's attacks came as riot police used tear gas and truncheons to break up a protest in central Tunis by about 200 people, mainly youths, as they denounced the transitional government and called for "a new revolution".
Dog handlers and even a light armoured car took part in the operation on the central Habib Bourguiba Avenue.
As demonstrators and bystanders alike fled the police charge, officers surrounded individuals, some of them on the ground, kicking and beating them with truncheons and sticks.
Tunisia's interior ministry issued a statement Friday apologising to "journalists and citizens involuntarily assaulted" and said it was opening an inquiry into who had been responsible.
The demonstrations on both Thursday and Friday were called by supporters of former interior minister Farhat Rajhi, who caused uproar earlier this week by warning of a potential military coup, remarks which he has since disowned.
A third demonstration was staged on Saturday outside the interior ministry before being dispersed by police using tear gas but showing more restraint than in the previous two days.
Journalists who for 23 years suffered surveillance, threats, interrogations and other pressure under Ben Ali had hoped for true press freedom following his departure after mass popular protests.
"We're very angry," the head of the Tunisian journalists' union, Neji Bgoughi, told AFP. "We achieved this revolution to have freedom of expression, it's as if the old regime was still in place."
Calling the interior ministry's apologies inadequate, he called for sanctions against those responsible and for journalists to be represented on a commission of inquiry.
Reports of assaults
On Thursday Associated Press photographer Hassan Dridi said police had kicked and punched him to the ground after he tried to photograph the police action against demonstrators.
On Friday AFP photographer Fathi Belaid said he was assaulted by four policemen on the stairs of the newspaper La Presse.
"They seized two cameras and a portable computer and hit me on the head with iron bars," he added.
Another photographer, Mohamed El-Hammi of the EPA agency, said police had beaten him up and taken his camera.
"I can't move my back any more it hurts so much," he told AFP before going for treatment.
Journalists from Al-Jazeera, Reuters news agency, the Arab-language El-Sahafa and Tunisia's La Presse newspapers were also among those assaulted, said the union.