25 April 2012

Over two years after the Revolution for Freedom and Dignity had broken the shackles that fettered freedom of expression and information, the signatory civil society associations think that it is incumbent upon them to warn public opinion against the relentless attempts to prevent a reform of the sector consistent with professional rules and international standards. Once again, these attempts aim to use the media as propaganda channels, which represents a real danger for the democratic transition process, and risks to pave the way for a new dictatorship.

To exemplify the existing threat to freedom of expression in Tunisia, we note in particular:

1. In the draft Constitution many provisions are contrary to the founding principles and international standards for freedom of expression, as there is an attempt to renege on the basic independence of the constitutional regulatory authorities of justice and the media.

2. The governments ignoring and contravening the provisions of the laws regulating the media sector, thus deliberately causing a legal vacuum, and leading to the emergence of a number of media with clear political allegiance and dubious funding. This is coupled with arbitrary appointments of public media managers and irresponsible behaviour towards these media going as far as threatening to sell them off.

3. Reviving an old draft organic law, submitted by elected representatives of the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR) to the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in September 2012, and aiming to abrogate decree-law 115 of 2011 on the freedom of the press and publishing and replace it with a text that destroys freedoms and criminalizes freedom of expression and protects political officials against criticism. The draft law includes over thirteen articles providing prison terms.

4. The blocking of the process of implementation of decree-law 116 of 2011 for over 28 months, and the failure to comply with the conditions set by it providing the setting up of a High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA°, after the President of the Republic had relinquished his prerogatives to the benefit of the three ruling parties, in particular the Ennahdha Party, which hampered the setting up of HAICA by ruling out candidates known for their competence and independence and proposing in their stead persons known for their allegiance and loyalty to that party, or not particularly noted for their standing up for freedom of the press.

5. Numerous aggressions have been perpetrated against journalists, some of whom received death threats, while public authorities have remained indifferent, and unable to provide protection, to them, or arrest their aggressors who have been enjoying total impunity. In addition, the penal code, and not decree-law 115, was used to prosecute many media men.

The signatory associations warn against the gravity of the situation and existing threats to freedom of expression. They call on public opinion and all free men and women in Tunisia to face up to the attempts to put down freedom of expression, the revolution’s major achievement, without which no real democratic transition can be attained.

– Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH)
– National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT)
– « Yakadha » Association for Democracy and a Civil State (Vigilance)
– General Culture and Information Union affiliated to the General Tunisian Labour Union (UGTT)
– Tunisian Union of Independent and Party Press (STPIP)
– Tunisian Union of Free Radios (STRL)