UNESCO focused its 3 May World Press Freedom Day events in Tunis, a symbolic move celebrating the hard-won privileges of a year of Arab uprisings. From the plush presidential palace he now calls home, former human rights activist Moncef Marzouki indulged in a Google Plus hangout to extol the virtues of the coalition government in which his leftist party is a junior partner with the Islamists of Ennahda.
But most journalists were crowded around the front of a colonial era courthouse on the other side of town, waiting for the result of the “Persepolis affair”. The case was brought against Nessma TV for airing the animated French-Iranian film, due to the depiction of God in one short scene. The provocative broadcast had sparked violence from offended Salafists at the station’sHQ and the home of its owner.
Suddenly, there was a buzz of activity when news went around the sunny courtyard that the owner was to be fined 2400 Dinar (around AUD$1500) for showing the film, while a smaller fine went to those who dubbed it into Tunisian Arabic.
The ruling and subsequent message was clear. “Disturbing public order and threatening proper morals” — by offending Islam — was not going to be tolerated in post-revolution Tunisia. Prosecuting lawyers said they’d appeal the “lenient” sentence.