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Tunisia intensifies media repression ahead of presidential election

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have raised alarms over a significant escalation in media repression in Tunisia, highlighting a series of recent arrests and convictions aimed at "annihilating" freedom of expression.

President Kais Saied © X

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have raised alarms over a significant escalation in media repression in Tunisia, highlighting a series of recent arrests and convictions aimed at "annihilating" freedom of expression.

This crackdown intensifies as the country approaches its first presidential election since President Kais Saied's 2021 power grab.

In a joint statement released on Thursday, the two human rights organizations criticized the Tunisian authorities for using Decree-Law 54, targeting "fake news," alongside other outdated laws, to suppress free speech. "By targeting journalists and other media figures, Mr. Saied’s government is driving the final nail into the coffin of civic space in Tunisia," stated Lama Fakih, HRW's regional director.

The NGOs also highlighted the weakening of Tunisia’s judiciary, noting that President Saied dismissed over 50 judges shortly after assuming full powers three years ago. Since February 2023, dozens of opposition figures have been arrested, and recent detentions have included members of NGOs aiding migrants and refugees.

According to HRW and Amnesty International, "more than 70 people" – including opposition figures, lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, and ordinary internet users – "have faced arbitrary prosecutions since late 2022," with "at least 40 remaining arbitrarily detained."

The joint statement underscores the critical need for the Tunisian authorities to uphold the freedoms gained during the 2011 Revolution and ensure a free and fair media environment as the presidential election approaches.

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