Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

Tunisian Government Should Respect Human Rights During Unrest

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 30 December 2010
Cite as Freedom House, Tunisian Government Should Respect Human Rights During Unrest, 30 December 2010, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Freedom House is deeply concerned about repressive measures used by Tunisian authorities in response to the current protests and political unrest in the country.  It urges the government to refrain from the unnecessary use of force against peaceful protesters and to respect the fundamental rights of its people, including the right to freely express dissenting opinions.

The unrest began nearly two weeks ago when a young Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire to protest the country's high unemployment rate. The incident, which took place in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, became the catalyst that sparked widespread protest and riots that have become a referendum on the government of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.  Protesters are calling for an end to corruption, nepotism, and restrictions on basic freedoms.  There have been reports of Tunisian security forces opening fire on protesters as well as large scale arrests and torture of prisoners. Although traditional media in Tunisia is heavily restricted and authorities have sophisticated methods for repressing internet freedom, reports of the protests have spread through non-traditional forms of media as bloggers and regular citizens have been tracking the events.

"The growing strength of the protests makes it clear that the Tunisian people have something to say and lack the democratic means through which to channel this dissent, including a free and independent media and the ability to peacefully protest," said David J. Kramer, Executive Director at Freedom House. "Freedom House urges Tunisian authorities to ensure the protection of the human rights of its citizens while working to facilitate to a peaceful resolution to this crisis."

Tunisia has one of the worst media environments in the world. Of the 15 countries surveyed in Freedom House's 2009 Freedom of the Net survey, Tunisia was tied with China as the 2nd worst country. Despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and association, the government uses an array of legal, penal and economic measures to silence dissenting voices. In June of this year, Tunisia's Parliament passed a law that criminalizes opposition activities.  Journalists and bloggers as well as human rights activists and voices of political dissent are routinely harassed, arrested and imprisoned.  The state strictly monitors and severely curbs the work of opposition parties.  

Tunisia is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.

To learn more about Tunisia, visit:

Freedom in the World 2010: Tunisia

Freedom of the Press 2010: Tunisia

Freedom on the Net 2009

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