manifTunis

The World  Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) contribute to the capacity building of the community and associative radio broadcasting sector in relation to advocacy, content development and radio production. The aim is to update the potential of social transformation of community broadcasting in Tunisia. AMARC is working on different levels: political support (institutional reinforcement of the Syndicat Tunisien des Radios Libres), technical (study on the current frequency plan and recommendations for new frequency allocations), direct support and mentoring to the new community radio initiatives on the ground. If you want more infos, please do not hesitate to contact the European Secretariat fradiasio@gmail.com.

Among the partners of AMARC, Article 19 and CMS. Here below an excerpt of the sudy “Tunisia: Protecting Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information in the New Constitution” carried out by Article 19 in March 2012

“Arguments for the specific constitutional protection of freedom of expression and freedom of information”

[…] ARTICLE 19 strongly recommends the adoption of specific constitutional provisions and legislation on the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of information in Tunisia for several, overlapping reasons.

First, Tunisia’s own human rights record compels enhanced legal protection of these rights as constitutional rights. In this context, it would be difficult to ignore the background to the revolutionary context that has prompted the drafting of the new Constitution to take place at all – a history of repression, censorship and corruption which sparked the demands of many of Tunisian protesters for free speech and against corruption. A number of human rights organisations – such as ARTICLE 19, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and la FIDH – has already expressed their long-standing and deep concerns about the protection of freedom of expression and media freedom in Tunisia prior to the Tunisian Revolution. […]

Following the popular uprising in Tunisia in December 2010 and the departure of President Ben Ali, there have been a number of positive developments in Tunisia aimed at reforming restrictive media legislation which ARTICLE 19 have examined and critiqued. These include immediate steps by the Interim Government towards protecting freedom of expression in the post-revolution context&) the Draft Decree on the Press Code,”* a draft Decree on the Freedom of Audiovisual Communication and the Creation of an Independent Higher Authority for Audiovisual Communication of Tunisia”& and the Media Regulations for the Constituent Assembly Elections.”” Furthermore, the Tunisian Interim Government adopted a Decree on Access to Administrative Documents in July 2011.

Yet these reforms are limited and there remain deep challenges to freedom of expression and the right to information – including a range of laws crafted and then abusively interpreted by courts to suppress the expression of dissent – that have not been addressed by the new reforms. The Press Code decriminalises defamation of state institutions and offence of the president of the republic and abolishes prison terms as a punishment. However, the law maintains the offence of defaming religions and the distribution of false information, provisions which were used by the Ben Ali government used to prosecute many dissidents and human rights activists. Moreover, Tunisia’s interim government has relied on such provisions to detain individuals, such as Samir Feriani.”‘ In addition, it is particularly disturbing that the director of Tunisia’s Nessma television, Nabil Karoui, is being prosecuted for broadcasting the Iranian film “Persepolis” last October. Karoui is on trial for “insulting sacred values, offending decent morals and causing public unrest”. Karoui claims that the investigation against him, which was launched on 11 October 2011 two days after protests against the screening of the film, the subsequent prosecution and trial is political motivated. At the resumption of his trial, Karoui poignantly said: “I am sorry to be here today, this is a political trial… It’s the trial of 10 million Tunisians who dreamed of having a democratic country.”

Therefore, whilst the reforms deliver a certain momentum to the democratic transition,

in substance they barely begin to address the legitimate human rights grievances of the Tunisian people, particularly in the areas of free speech, media freedom and access to information. Meaningful reform needs to be “root-and-branch start” with the Constitution.

Second, and the same vein, freedom of expression and freedom of information are the very foundations of any democratic society, and are crucial to the enjoyment of other rights. […]. If people are not free to say what they want, to disseminate information and expression their opinion on matters of political interest, and to receive information and ideas from a variety of sources, then they will not be able to case an informed vote or to participate in governance in other ways. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of information are also key in any system for protecting and promoting the enjoyment of all other human rights – whether civil or political rights, or economic, social and cultural rights. It is important to highlight that human rights violations thrive in a climate of secrecy while freedom of expression helps combat violations by empowering journalists and others, notably civil society organisations to investigate and report on violations and by opening up government institutions to public scrutiny.

Third, as a participating member in the International Covenant on Civil and Political

Rights, Tunisia is obliged to enforce these rights. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights and the corresponding provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protect these rights. Tunisia signed the ICCPR on 30 April 1968 and ratified it on 18 March 1969. As a result of ratifying the ICCPR, the state of Tunisia is not only bound as a matter of international law by the provisions of the ICCPR, but is obliged to give effect to that treaty through national implementing measures including legislation and judicial decisions […]

Fourth, the inclusion of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information in Tunisia’s new Constitution is also supported by international and regional human rights standards – most notably the African and Arab human rights systems, as well as – from a comparative experience – the European and Inter-American systems of human rights protection.

Fifth, and finally, the adoption of constitutional legal protection for freedom of information would allow Tunisia join the international community of states in which most states with constitutions include protections for the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information within those texts.