Lawyer Imen Souissi confirmed they are facing charges of insulting others through social networks and they could face up to a year in prison if convicted.
Two students were arrested by Tunisian police over a satirical song that criticized the police, their lawyer said on Wednesday, bolstering concerns of a decline in freedom of speech since President Kais Saied seized the majority of powers two years ago.
This week, Youssef Chelbi and Dhia Nsir uploaded a video to TikTok and Facebook showing them giggling and singing a sarcastic song criticizing police treatment of detainees and a drug law.
If found guilty, they face up to a year in prison, according to their attorney Imen Souissi. The police and the interior ministry were unavailable for immediate comment.
Concerned by the arrest of the two men, activists and bloggers republished the song to demonstrate their support. According to activists, freedoms are under siege and Tunisia has become a large penitentiary.
After the 2011 revolution that toppled the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring, Tunisians made significant strides in terms of freedom of expression and the media.
Saied, who dissolved parliament in 2021 and seized all power, vowed to safeguard rights and liberties and stated that he would not be a dictator.
However, his adversaries, who termed his actions a coup, claimed that he had established one-man rule, imprisoned his opponents, and silenced critical voices.
A radio journalist was sentenced to five years in prison by an appeals court on Tuesday for leaking information about the security services.
The leading journalists’ union criticized the verdict, stating that it is the harshest sentence against a journalist in Tunisia’s history and that it has never occurred even during the country’s most dictatorial periods. It was stated that the verdict was a message to suppress journalists.
Several prominent opposition leaders have been detained this year on charges of plotting against state security, a move the opposition has described as a consolidation of a dictatorial regime.
Saeid refuted the criticism, stating that they are terrorists and offenders. On Monday, a judge convicted opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi of incitement and sentenced him to one year in prison.