In a show of defiance against what they perceive as repressive anti-terror laws used to stifle the media, Tunisian journalists staged a protest on Thursday.
The demonstration was prompted by the recent imprisonment of a broadcaster for five years.
Chanting slogans such as “We are journalists, not terrorists” and “Freedom for the Tunisian press,” dozens of protesters congregated in front of the national union of journalists’ headquarters in Tunis.
The rally was sparked by the application of anti-terrorism legislation by a court on Tuesday, which increased the jail term of Khalima Guesmi, a journalist from the Mosaique FM radio station, to five years. Guesmi had appealed against a one-year sentence handed down in November.
According to his lawyer, he was convicted of deliberately disclosing sensitive information related to interception, infiltration, audiovisual surveillance, or data collection.
Mahdi Jlassi, the president of the journalists’ union, voiced his concerns about the situation, stating, “There is a frank and clear (political) orientation towards lockdown and repression, which targets disobedient media.”
He further emphasized the erosion of freedoms in the country and the increasing legal actions taken against journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, and individuals expressing their opinions through comments, articles, or artistic expressions.
The rally coincided with the recent detention of two Tunisian students who posted a satirical song on social media criticizing the police and drug-related laws.
This further highlighted the tightening restrictions on freedom of expression in the country.
Jlassi revealed that approximately 20 journalists are currently facing prosecution for their work.
Local and international human rights organizations, as well as trade unions, issued a joint statement on Tuesday, cautioning against the concerning trajectory of the current authorities and calling on activists and civil society to unite in defense of freedoms and human rights.
These groups have criticized the decline in civic liberties in Tunisia following President Kais Saied’s sweeping power consolidation on July 25, 2021.
The ongoing protests by Tunisian journalists aim to draw attention to these issues and demand a restoration of press freedom in the country.