Dozens of Tunisian journalists protested in front of the El Gorjani Police Research Department in Tunis in support of two top journalists who are under investigation.
The protesters, including one of the summoned journalists, Elyes Gharbi, denounced what they deemed to be attempts to suppress press freedom in the country.
“We are here because we have been reproached for certain remarks made on the May 15, 2023 program. These were, in our opinion, constructive observations. They are obviously critical, but constructive. Today, there may be a different take by the authorities. We will explain that we are journalists to the authorities. As such, we are permitted to criticize. As a result, we criticize in a constructive manner and in a spirit of free expression and free thought, which we will defend.” Elyes Gharbi, radio presenter said.
The summoning of the two journalists follows the use of anti-terrorism laws to increase to five years the prison sentence granted to Khalifa Guesmi, also of the Mosaique FM radio station, following his November appeal of a one-year sentence.
Guesmi was found guilty of intentionally disclosing “information pertaining to interception, infiltration, audiovisual surveillance, or data collection,” his lawyer said after the most recent ruling.
The president of the journalists’ union, Mahdi Jlassi, stated, “There is an open and obvious (political) orientation toward lockdown and repression, which targets disobedient media.”
“We are once again sounding the alarm about the rollback of freedoms in this country and the legal proceedings targeting journalists, lawyers, and labor unionists, as well as others for comments, articles, and even songs.”
Two Tunisian students were arrested on Monday for publishing a satirical song on social media that criticized the police and drug laws.
Jlassi added that approximately twenty journalists are presently being prosecuted for their work.
Several local and international rights organizations and labor unions issued a warning Tuesday “against the seriousness of the current authorities’ repressive direction” and urged activists and civil society to “mobilize to defend freedoms and human rights.”
These organizations have criticized the decline in Tunisia’s freedoms since President Kais Saied’s sweeping power seizure on July 25, 2021.