Tunisia: Skyline expresses concern over presidential decree criminalising dissemination of false news as freedom of expression continues to be violated
Stockholm - Skyline International is deeply concerned about the ongoing violations of freedom of opinion and expression in Tunisia, which have continued to this day since the measures announced by Tunisian President Kais Saied on July 25, 2021. The most recent of these measures was the presidential council's decree criminalising the "spread of false news" on social media. It joins a series of restrictions that include the suspension of parliament, the lifting of parliamentary immunity, the dismissal of the prime minister, and the assumption of the office of attorney general.
In a statement released today (Saturday), Skyline points out that Tunisian President Kais Saied issued a new decree on Friday that imposes prison sentences on those who publish false news and information or rumors on the communications network and information systems. Skyline warns that this decree could be misused to tighten restrictions on freedom of expression, which is decreasing at an alarming rate.
Skyline expresses its concerns about the decree after reviewing its texts, particularly Chapter 24 of the Information and Communications Act, which provides for a five-year prison sentence for anyone who spreads false news, false information, or rumors with the aim of attacking others, compromising public safety, or spreading panic.
The decree, published in the Official Gazette, also provides for a prison sentence of up to 10 years if the target is a public employee, and a fine of 50,000 Tunisian dinars (the equivalent of 15,000 and 500 euros).
In this regare, Skyline points out that the texts of the current decree and the behavior of the Tunisian authorities, particularly the security authorities, show that the authorities continue to violate freedom of opinion and expression in the country. It warns that the current decree may aim to legitimize the practices of restrictive agencies and authorities against activists and freedom of opinion and expression..
Skyline stresses that the human rights situation in Tunisia is continuously deteriorating following the decisions of the Tunisian president on July 25, 2021, according to which he froze the work of the parliament and lifted the immunity of its deputies as he assumed all powers. These decisions also restrict freedom of expression and opinion, the monitoring of newspapers and websites, and freedom of movement and travel, in clear and unjustified violation of numerous international law provisions and conventions.
Despite the repeated statements of Tunisian President Kais Saied, in which he always affirms that "there is absolutely no place for the violation of human rights and the infringement of rights and freedoms," the observed facts prove the oopposite. Thus, these measures directly targeted a group of fundamental rights guaranteed under international law, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to peaceful assembly.
Skyline concludes his statement by calling on the President of the Republic, Kais Saied, to reverse all decisions that unlawfully violate the fundamental rights of individuals. It also points out that if these decisions continue to stand, they will have repercussions, as they constitute a serious violation of the rules and conventions of international law.
At the end of its statement, Skyline calls on the Tunisian authorities to adopt a policy of restraint and to work to ensure that citizens can exercise their right to express their views and criticise the work of the authorities, and that they are given full space to do so. In addition, a comprehensive reform process should be initiated by reactivating parliament and launching a comprehensive national dialogue involving all political forces to establish a roadmap to ensure that citizens are spared from abuses and to discuss mechanisms to restore stability in the country.