Tunisia: annual report on press freedom released
Marking World Press Freedom Day, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) issued its annual report about the state of press freedom in the country. The report details challenges facing the Tunisian media
during the post-revolution period. A major section of the report specifically addresses a litany of transgressions Tunisian journalists have endured since January 14th, 2011.
The report highlighted the continuation of regressive laws belonging to the era of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to prosecute journalists, particularly chapter 121 of the sanctions law which was widely used to repress reporters.
Another part of the sanctions law, chapter 23, was used to sue media institutions for publishing controversial material, such as cases involving Nessma TV and Ettounisia newspaper.
The report referred to the threat imposed against journalists by chapter 86 of the communication law which stated that "everyone who insults anybody through communication networks should be jailed for a one to two years period and fined a maximum of 1000 dinars."
The report said the chapter opened the door to threatening journalists through fabricated allegations only to limit their freedom of speech.
The SNJT questioned the delay of activating decree 115 that allows for press freedom, which in its 14th chapter states that journalists have immunity against being sued for their opinions. The report said the delay paved the way for "terrorising" journalists by "militias" associated with political parties in the country, particularly the ruling Ennahda.
According to the report, a significant number of Tunisian journalists have been subjected to both physical and verbal abuse by police, politicians, and citizens with political affiliations. The report stated that incidents of abuse occur, on average, once a week.
The report described the attacks as a concerted “campaign against media”. National political figures, such as interim prime minister Hamadi Jebali, were accused of constantly lambasting the media, particularly following the appointment of high-ranking officials within Tunisia’s state-run media network. The report also accused the government of not responding to incidents of assault against journalists with seriousness.
The report concluded with a list of suggestions proposed by the Union of Tunisian Journalists to the Commission of Rights and Liberties at Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly. The union’s suggestions primarily called upon the government to uphold freedom of expression and access to information in the forthcoming constitution.