Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Tunisia ‘destroys’ freedom of expression through crackdown on the media: amnesty

By Vaseline May30,2024

Amnesty International has criticized Tunisia’s crackdown on media workers, often carried out under Decree 54, a law against “fake news.”

Freedom of expression has declined dramatically under Kais Saied’s rule (Getty/file photo)

Tunisian authorities’ crackdown on journalists and media figures is methodically destroying what little remains of the country’s hard-won freedoms, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The rights groups said in a joint statement that authorities have “stepped up” their “repression of freedom of expression” under Decree 54, a law against “fake news”, as the country prepares for presidential elections due this fall.

“By attacking journalists and other media figures, Saied’s government aims to put the final nail in the coffin of Tunisia’s civic space,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The groups denounced what they called the “undermining (of) the judiciary” in Tunisia. President Kais Saied fired more than 50 judges shortly after a sweeping power grab in 2021, while the government last year began a series of arrests that recently targeted political opponents and civil society figures.

“Tunisian authorities are methodically destroying the last remaining achievements of the 2011 revolution: freedom of expression and the press,” Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, said in the statement.

Ahead of the elections, Morayef urged the government to “ensure that all Tunisians can freely express their opinions” and that “independent media can do their reporting without intimidation or intimidation.”

Both groups called on authorities to “immediately release the detainees and drop all prosecutions for speech.”

They also called for the repeal of “Decree Law 2022-54, together with vague or overly broad provisions of other existing codes that have been used to criminalize free expression.”

The groups highlighted the cases of media figures Borhen Bssais and Mourad Zeghidi, who were sentenced to a year in prison last week, and the co-founder of independent media Inkyfadawho was sentenced to nine months in prison.

They also reported the forcible arrest of lawyer and political commentator Sonia Dahmani under the same decree, after masked police raided the headquarters of the Tunisian Bar on May 11 – two days before arresting a second lawyer.

According to the rights groups, “more than 70 people, including political opponents, lawyers, journalists, activists, human rights defenders and social media users, have been subjected to arbitrary prosecutions since the end of 2022.”

“At least 40 remain arbitrarily detained in May 2024, most of whom are detained in connection with the exercise of their internationally protected rights.”

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