Posts Tagged ‘press freedom’

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.

In this piece for New Matilda, I speak to renowned Tunisian journalist Fahem Boukadous, Reporters Sans Frontiere’s Olivia Gré, and Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi. Continue reading.


A Tunisian court today handed down a handful of fines to a Tunisian TV station which had the temerity to broadcast the Franco-Iranian animated film Persepolis, and thus offend public sentiments due to its depiction of God in one admittedly brief scene.

Something of a test-case in Tunisia, the trial of the Nessma TV chief Nabil Karoui and his colleagues has been criticised by secular Tunisians and press freedom organisations, keen to see a fearless media flower in the post-revolution environment. As it happens, no one is really happy with today’s result of a fine instead of jail time; the prosecutors and conservative protesters outside the courthouse today wanted time served, and organisations such as Reporters Sans Frontieres say there should be no fine at all. As it stands, the prosecution looks set to appeal the decision not to award a taxpayer-funded holiday in the lock-up.

Balcony beep beep-BGAN, Sony Z1 and iPad autocue: France24’s David Thomson does his stand-up after my Anglophone take.


I reported on the happenings in front of the court and the reaction in Tunisia for France24 English, via a series of live crosses and phone interviews. Which is quite fitting, as in Tunisia everyone thinks that as a white journalist, you’re naturally working for France24 anyway. Thankfully, no Salafists turned up to the hearing to clobber me over the head for my (perceived) role in extending the hand of soft French power, as I was half expecting.

It’s an interesting operation, with both English and French BGAN’d from the balcony of Francophone correspondent David Thomson. Voila.

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