Tunisia: Trial of activist is an assault on freedom of expression

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Tunisian authorities to drop charges against blogger and human rights activist Ghassen Boughdiri and to stop abusive practices by using the penal code to prosecute bloggers for their opinions. 

On Tuesday 22 November 2022, Ghassen Boughdiri will appear before the Court of First Instance in Beja on charges of committing an outrageous act against the President of the Republic, committing crimes against national security and threatening others in accordance with the provisions of articles 67 and 222 of the Penal Code. The charges follow his posts on Facebook that criticised the President of the Republic and mocked corruption in the country’s security sector.  

Boughdiri, a young Tunisian and civil society activist, has participated in several youth-led demonstrations and campaigns, including protests designed to reveal the truth about the killing of Omar Laabidi, a soccer fan who died after being chased by police after a match. Ghassen Boughdiri had also taken part in protests against human rights violations.

Since the declaration of the state of exception1 on 25 July 2021, Tunisian authorities have been tracking bloggers and journalists in accordance with the either the provisions of the Penal Code, the Telecommunications Code or the Code of Military procedures. These provisions constitute severe punitive and intimidating laws, and authorities have used them to harass journalists and bloggers, repeatedly summoning them for hearings and investigations, in addition to quick commencements of their trials, preventing other individuals from participating in public affairs or from organising campaigns in the future.

ARTICLE 19 warns of the security and judicial prosecutions issued since the declaration of the state of emergency2 and the targeting of bloggers in connection with their opinions and the critical stances they have taken against political officials, security agents and, in general, public institutions. This targeting constitutes a blow to their right to expression and to the fundamental role that this right plays in promoting democratic participation and ensuring the accountability of authorities and public officials.  

ARTICLE 19 therefore calls on the Tunisian authorities to stop these practices and drop the charges against the young activist and blogger Ghassen Boughdiri and against other civil activists and journalists prosecuted for expressing their views.

 

Tunisia ranked 63 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report – ARTICLE 19’s annual review of the state of freedom of expression and the right to information around the world.