First Published: 2013-03-20

 

Human Rights Watch: Tunisia’s defamation law threatens free speech

 

New York-based press watchdog calls on Tunisia to ‘urgently’ repeal its criminal defamation law, which can lead to two years in jail.

 

Middle East Online

Ben Ali repressive laws in service of Ennahda

TUNIS - Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Tunisia to "urgently" repeal its criminal defamation law, which can lead to two years in jail and which it said has a "chilling effect" on freedom of speech.

"Tunisian authorities should urgently amend the country’s law on defamation to make it conform to international norms on freedom of expression," the New York-based press watchdog said.

"These standards hold that defamation should be considered a civil matter, not a crime punishable with imprisonment," it added.

"Criminal defamation laws have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and work against the public interest by deterring people from speaking out about corruption or other misconduct by public officials," said Eric Goldstein, HRW's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa region.

The press watchdog highlighted the case of Olfa Riahi, a blogger who posted information about the alleged squandering of public funds by former foreign minister Rafik Abdessalem, before he stepped down earlier this month.

It also cited the defamation charges brought against Raja Ben Slama, a university professor, for accusing an Islamist MP overseeing the drafting of the new constitution of attempting to limit freedom of expression.

They face up to two years in jail if convicted of mistakenly accusing an official of wrongdoing.

Tunisia's secular opposition has regularly accused the ruling Islamist party Ennahda of seeking to restrict freedom of expression and Islamise society, relying in particular on repressive laws dating back to the regime of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

 

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Civilians stay on frontlines despite dangers in Raqa

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Erdogan meddles in German politics

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers

Syrian actress, activist Fadwa Suleiman dies in Paris

Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’

UAE to provide $15 million a month to Gaza

Sudan's Bashir 'satisfied' with Nile dam project

US-backed rebels say American presence in Syria to last ‘decades’

Tunisian clerics oppose equal inheritance rights for women

Israel strikes almost 100 Hezbollah arms convoys in 5 years

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end

LONG READ: How Syria continues to evade chemical weapons justice

Civilians killed in US-led raids on Raqa

Qatari pilgrims begin flooding into Saudi by land

Turkey arrests 9 more journalists for alleged ‘Gulen links’

Iran’s Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest

Saudi Arabia to restart work on Grand Mosque expansion

Algeria reshuffles cabinet, nominates three new ministers

Syria rebels lose heavyweight faction

ICC orders Mali ex-jihadist pay 2.7 m euros for Timbuktu destruction

Libya seeks to ‘organise’ NGOs carrying migrant rescue Ops

More than one million South Sudan refugees in Uganda

Beirut, Damascus pledge to boost economic ties

Two killed on Gaza-Egypt border