Tunisia: media targeted to “annihilate” freedom of expression, according to HRW and Amnesty

Tunisia: media targeted to “annihilate” freedom of expression, according to HRW and Amnesty
Tunisia: media targeted to “annihilate” freedom of expression, according to HRW and Amnesty

The two rights defense NGOs underline in a press release that as the first presidential election approaches since the coup by President Kaïs Saied in the summer of 2021, “the authorities have intensified their repression of freedom of expression » based on Decree Law 54 against “fake news” and “other archaic laws”.

“By attacking journalists and other media figures, Mr. Saied’s government is hammering the final nail into the coffin of civic space in Tunisia,” criticizes Lama Fakih, regional director of HRW.

The NGO highlights “the weakening of the judicial system” with the dismissal of more than 50 judges by President Saied shortly after granting himself full powers three years ago, the arrest since February 2023 of dozens of opponents and arrests that recently affected NGOs providing assistance to migrants and refugees.

“The Tunisian authorities are destroying the last gains of the 2011 Revolution: freedom of expression and the media,” said Heba Morayef, regional director of Amnesty International, according to the press release.

In view of the presidential election scheduled for the fall, Ms. Morayef urges the Tunisian authorities to “guarantee that independent media can carry out their coverage without harassment or intimidation.”

Read also: Tunisia: opponents arrested, migrants denigrated, journalists gagged… The repressive machine is running at full speed

The two organizations demand “immediate release and an end to the prosecution” for an opinion expressed. They also call for “repealing Decree 54, as well as the vague or overly broad provisions of other texts, used to criminalize freedom of expression”.

The press release cites the cases of two columnists, Borhen Bssaiss and Mourad Zeghidi, sentenced on May 22 to one year in prison, and the co-founder of the independent media Inkyfada, sentenced to nine months in prison.

The two NGOs also recall the proceedings initiated under Decree 54 against the lawyer and columnist Sonia Dahmani, brutally arrested on May 11 in the premises of the Tunis bar, and the six-month prison sentence of journalist Mohamed Boughalleb.

According to HRW and Amnesty, “more than 70 people” – opponents, lawyers, journalists, rights defenders and simple Internet users – “have been the subject of arbitrary prosecutions since the end of 2022”, of whom “at least 40 remain arbitrarily detained”.

By Le360 Africa (with AFP)

05/30/2024 at 12:04 p.m.

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