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Tunisia: A Year After the Revolution, Limitations on Freedom of Expression Continue

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

A year after the ouster of the Tunisian ex-president, pressure on freedom of press continues in Tunisia. This week, three newsmen from Tunisian printed newspaper “Attounisia” were arrested for publishing a controverted picture of Tunisian and Real Madrid soccer player Sami Kedira and model Lena Gercke's naked photograph.

The cover reads: "Tunisian soccer player Sami Kedira's photos shock Spain.

The cover reads: "Tunisian soccer player Sami Kedira's photos shock Spain.

The arrest of the Attounisia – whose online edition happens to be one of the most visited website in Tunisia – writers outraged public opinion in Tunisia. While few were in favour of their arrest since the media law stipulates “respecting public decency”, many Tunisian internet users logged on their social media accounts to denounce their arrest, using sarcastic comments.

On Twitter, Sami Nafsi writes [ar]:

هل ستأذن النيابة بإيقاف المسؤولين فى مونوبري ?? ‎#WTF‏ ‎#Attounissia‏ ‎http://pic.twitter.com/V2xqEKOl
@SamiNafsi: Will the general prosecutor order to arrest Monoprix (retail chain) directors? #WTF #Attounissia http://pic.twitter.com/V2xqEK01

The chain sells underwear, and advertises photographs of models wearing it.

Lingerie catalogue of Monoprix

Lingerie catalogue of Monoprix

Tunisian blogger Le Trocadero [fr] couldn't help but joke about the arrest of Attounisia newsmen. In his latest bulletin, he suggested that the general prosecutor should sue the Bardo National Museum in Bardo too:

on y trouve des statues nues de femmes et d’hommes dans des positions plus que suspectes. Est-ce que tu l’accepterais pour ta sœur ?

There are [in the Bardo Museum] naked statues of males and females alike in suspicious positions. Would you want this for your sister?

This bulletin has already been shared on Facebook more than 3,000 times and 23 times on Twitter.

Slim Ayed, a Tunisian citizen journalist, uploaded the following video about the matter on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=08wUZUNpP5s#!

The video, in Arabic, features interviews with some Tunisian journalists and their opinions about the arrest of the Attounisia newsmen. All of them agree that these accusations are ludicrous and that the general prosecution in Tunisia should be preoccupied with more serious issues such as the unresolved cases of corruption in Tunisia and the death of the martyrs during the uprising of January 2011.

Meanwhile, two of the Attounisia newsmen were released earlier this week while the newspaper executive is still held in custody. On February 18, his newspaper published an article stating that he started a hunger strike in prison, in protest against his detention.

Sami Kedira responded publicly through German daily Die Welt:

Ich respektiere die verschiedenen Religionen, die es gibt, und auch den Glauben, den die Menschen haben. Aber ich kann nicht verstehen, dass sich Menschen nicht frei äußern dürfen. Das ist traurig”

I respect religions and people's beliefs, but I can not understand that people may not express themselves freely. It is sad.

Attounisia executive is not the only newsman being tried in Tunisia. Nabil Karoui, the Nessma TV executive, is also being tried for blasphemy after screening the French-Iranian animation movie Persepolis. Both executives can be sentenced between three to five years, according to an obsolete press code that has not been updated since the 1980s.

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

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