Declining freedom of expression in Tunisia – internet users and journalists face arrest and charges

The arrest of two students based on social media posts and two journalists is evidence of Tunisia’s degradation of free expression, and ARTICLE 19 calls on Tunisian authorities to uphold constitutional rights.

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The arrest of two students and bringing of charges against two journalists are the most recent evidence of Tunisia’s degradation of free expression. According to the organisation ARTICLE 19, which also criticises student imprisonment, harassment of journalists and social media users is becoming increasingly common. They had been apprehended on 15 May and held under an arrest warrant issued by the Nabeul Court of First Instance on 16 May.

Students risk up to four years in prison, which ARTICLE 19 considers unjustified. The arrest of these two students, aged 26 and 27, was based on releasing a satirical song on social media, which was classified as injuring others on social forms of entertainment, in line with the Telecommunications Act. According to the Criminal Code, they will be punished for attributing illegal activities to a public officer.

ARTICLE 19 also condemns the case brought against two journalists accused of defamation and creating rumours that endanger security, implying that their comments were disapproved.

According to ARTICLE 19, in the circumstances involving freedom of speech, the Regulation on Freedom of the Press, rather than the Criminal Code and Telecommunications Code, is more suitable. This group sees Tunisia’s criminal proceedings as an attack on journalistic freedom and freedom of expression. They demand Tunisian authorities uphold constitutional rights and drop accusations against journalists and internet users to prevent criminalising their fundamental rights.