Appeal to defend and save freedom of speech in Tunisia

Friday 26 April 2013

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Source: WFTU.

Keywords: Freedom of speech and information, Tunisia, Law, journalism, Justice.

Tow and a half years after the “freedom and dignity revolution” in Tunisia, where the shackles on the freedom of speech and information were smashed, the members of the civil society, signatories of this appeal are of the opinion that it is their right and duty to alert the public opinion against the constant threats to stop the implementation of the reform in the information sector according to the rules of the profession and of international standards for freedom of speech and against the use, once again, of the media as propaganda instruments, which constitutes a real danger to the peaceful transition process and a risk is faced of preparing the return of the dictatorship.

Among the multiple indicators and examples demonstrating that the freedom of speech in Tunisia is in danger we could mention the following:

1- The writing in the future constitution draft Project of a set of dispositions contrary to the foundations of the freedom of speech and of international standards on these issues, as well as the attempt to retake the principle of effective dependence of constitutional elements entrusted with the information and judicial power sectors.

2- The lack of concern by the government related the legislation ruling the information sector and the violation of its regulations, which created a juridical vacuum that fostered the appearance in parts of the media, aligned from the political point of view and with funds coming from doubtful sources; as well as the arbitrary appointment of people to lead certain state media, as well as irresponsible behavior related to these media, such as the threats for privatizations.

3- The re-stating of an old draft organic law, presented in September 2012 to the Constituent National Assembly by representative of the Congress of the Republic aiming at the derogation of the decree-law No. 115 of 2011, related to the freedom of press, printing and editing which will be replaced by a new text that sanctions the freedom of speech and which protects political responsible against any criticism.

4- The blockade against the implementation process of decree-law No. 116 of 2011, dating back 28 months, and the non respect to conditions established on said disposition contemplating the creation of a High Level Independent Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA, by its acronym in French), once the President of the Republic has resigned to his prerogatives in favor of the parties forming part of the Troika, in particular the party ¨ Ennahdah ¨; who hindered the creation of HAICA, after eliminating the known candidates for its competence and its Independence of spirit and of character, and proposing instead people who are loyal and dedicated that never before have been known for their stands favoring the freedom of press.

5- The increase on the aggressions against journalists, who have been threaten with death, facing the indifference of state officials and their incapacity for protecting them and for arresting their aggressors who enjoy total impunity, aside of judicial proceedings presented against professionals from the media, by virtue of the penal code instead of Decree-law No. 115.

The signing associations of this appeal wish to warn about the serious nature of the situation and against threats looming over the freedom of speech. They call the public opinion, as well as all free people to confront the attempts to suffocate the freedom of press and of speech, an important achievement attained thanks to the revolution and without which Tunisia has no possibility whatsoever to implement a real democratic transition.

- Tunisian Human Rights Defense League (LTDH)

- National Trade Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT)

- Association « Yakadha » for the democracy of the civic state.

- General Trade Union of Culture and Information under the umbrella of UGTT.

- Tunisian Trade Union of Independent Press and Party Press (STPIP)

- Tunisian Trade Union of Free Radio (STRL)

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