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ARTICLE 19: Asserting one's rights remains uncertain in Tunisia

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 17 December 2013
Cite as Article 19, ARTICLE 19: Asserting one's rights remains uncertain in Tunisia , 17 December 2013, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
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.

As Tunisians marked the third anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution (17 December-14 January), ARTICLE 19 expresses its concern over the country's human rights situation, particularly freedom of expression and information, which remain under threat.

"The political crisis that has deepened since the assassination of the opposition member Mohamed Brahmi on 25 July 2013, further worsening the country's socio-economic crisis, may well lead to a loss of interest in freedom of expression and the press, as well other fundamental rights, including transparency and access to information. Today, Tunisian citizens are more concerned about ensuring that they have security and a safe and decent life," said Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19's Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 hopes that the agreement reached on 14 December 2013 on the appointment of a new prime minister will lead to the formation of a government with national powers capable of steering the country until the elections, due to take place in 2014, and which could provide a new momentum for the democratic transition of the country.

ARTICLE 19 urges all political and social stakeholders to engage in national dialogue in order to reach consensus on the road map proposed by the Quartet-sponsored negotiations, namely, the adoption of a new constitution; the establishment of a Higher Independent Authority for Elections; and the drafting and adoption of an electoral code.

Furthermore, ARTICLE 19 continues to count on the democratic transition experience gained in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, and on the possibility to promote this historical experience as a model for other Arab countries also undergoing a democratic transition process.

"Tunisians deserve to be able to assert their rights and freedoms in a democratic country that abides by international rules on human rights," added Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19's Executive Director.

Continued Use of Penal Code

ARTICLE 19 also recalls that the ongoing arrests, trials and convictions of journalists, bloggers and artists threaten the fundamental achievements gained by the Tunisian Revolution, namely increased freedom of expression and information. ARTICLE 19 considers that these types of practices may well lead to a return to censorship and self-censorship.

On 5 December 2013, Tunisian rapper Weld EL 15 was, for the third time, given a four-month unconditional prison sentence for using lyrics that the judges deemed insulting to the police. On 25 November 2013, French-Tunisian journalist Hind El Meddeb and Tunisian rapper Aymen Fekhi were given four-month conditional prison sentences for insulting a civil servant, because they had protested in court on the day the verdict against Weld El 15 was handed down last June.

Blogger Jabeur Mejri has been serving a prison sentence since 28 March 2012, after being sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for publishing drawings deemed to cause religious offence.

ARTICLE 19 considers that the majority of prison sentences inflicted are unjustified and disproportionate to the nature of the acts committed. ARTICLE 19 likewise contests the handing-down of sentences under penal code provisions instead of the provisions of Decree-law 115 on freedom of the press, printing and publishing, which was passed in 2011.

"Journalists, bloggers and artists sentenced under penal code provisions instead of the provisions of Decree-law 115 must be freed immediately," continued Hughes.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the National Constituent Assembly to take into account the recommendations stemming from its four analyses of the different versions of the constitution. We consider it necessary to proceed with the revision of the provisions on freedom of expression and information in order to align them with existing international norms in this area.

In more positive news, ARTICLE 19 welcomes the adoption of the Bill on transitional justice of 15 December 2013, following debate at the plenary session of the National Constituent Assembly. ARTICLE 19 hopes that this consensus will also be reflected in the draft of the new Constitution.

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