ARTICLE 19 expresses its deep concern at the deterioration of freedom of expression in Tunisia, marked by an upsurge in convictions[mfn] ARTICLE 19 condemns the decision of the Court of Appeal to sentence journalist Khalifa Guesmi to five years in prison for legitimately exercising his duties Professional: https://www.article19.org/resources/tunisia-acquit-journalist-and-protect-journalists-sources/[/mfn], arrests[mfn]the director of Radio Mosaïque FM must be released immediately : https://www.article19.org/resources/tunisia-director-of-radio-mosaique-fm-must-be-released-immediately/[/mfn], and prosecutions[mfn] The opening of an investigation into the work of Monia journalists Arfaoui and Mohamed Boughlab : https://www.article19.org/resources/tunisia-government-drop-policy-of-undermining-press-freedom/[/mfn] against journalists, as well as users of social networks – all of which have become systematic. The most recent example of this ongoing assault was the arrest of two students and cases being brought against two journalists. The Tunisian prosecuting authorities must immediately withdraw the charges against them, which are based on articles of the Penal Code, the Telecommunications Code and Decree-Law No. 2022-54.
The organisation strongly condemns the detention of two students, Dhia Nassir and Youssef Chalbi, aged 26 and 27. They were arrested on 15 May 2023 and placed in police custody, and were then held under an arrest warrant issued by the Nabeul Court of First Instance on 16 May 2023. Their court appearance is scheduled for next Tuesday, 23 May, according to statements by their lawyer, Imen Souissi.
This detention followed the students posting a satirical song on social media. They are being prosecuted for harming others on social networks under Article 86 of the Telecommunications Code, as well as for imputing illegal acts to a public official under Article 128 of the Criminal Code. They face a sentence of up to 4 years in prison. ARTICLE 19 considers this arrest to be totally unjustified and disproportionate to the nature of the act committed.
ARTICLE 19 also follows with deep concern the complaint filed against two journalists, Haythem El Mekki and Elyes and Gharbi, in response to comments they made on the Midi Show, broadcast on Mosaique FM on 15 May. According to the lawyer, Dalila Ben Mbarek, the complaint relates to charges of defamation under Article 245 of the Criminal Code and to accusations that they spread rumours affecting internal security under Article 24 of Decree Law No. 2022-54.
ARTICLE 19 expresses its dismay at the continued application of provisions from the Criminal Code, the Telecommunications Code and Decree-Law No. 2022-54 in cases relating to freedom of expression, particularly because it would be more appropriate to apply Decree Law 115 on freedom of the press, the provisions of which are more in line with international standards , in these cases. We also consider these arrests and prosecutions to be based on legal grounds that are in flagrant violation of Tunisia’s international commitments, and therefore constitute a systematic attack on freedom of expression and press.
We call on the Tunisian prosecution authorities to immediately withdraw the charges against journalists and internet users, which are based on outdated provisions that criminalise and suppress freedom of expression and the press. Authorities must uphold these rights in line with the constitution and its obligations under international standards and norms.