Tunisian journalist on trial for allegedly insulting public officials

A prominent Tunisian journalist has been detained pretrial on a judge’s order after threatening the prospect of publishing a report during a hearing on Tuesday. About corruption and the misuse of public funds by some ministers and public agencies.

Mohamed Bohaleb’s court hearing came four days after he was arrested in Tunisia for allegedly insulting public officials on social media.

As Tunisia heads to presidential elections later this year, Bouhaleb’s arrest is the latest incident condemned by free speech advocates in the country where pro-democracy demonstrators sparked the Arab Spring over the past decade.

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Bohaleb, a regular contributor to popular radio stations and a frequent critic of Tunisia’s president, is scheduled to go on trial next month and could be sentenced to between two and four years, his lawyer Nafaa Larbi told him. years in prison. Associated Press.

His arrest is the latest example of Tunisian officials taking advantage of a controversial 2022 law that free speech and civil liberties advocates say is increasingly being abused to silence journalists and government opponents. .

A Tunisian journalist accused of insulting a public official will go on trial next month.

The law, Decree 54, is intended to combat cybercrime, but rights activists say it has been used to prosecute prominent journalists and opposition figures, including opposition leader Chaima Issa, political commentator Ziad El Heni and Sofiane Zneidi, member of the Tunisian Parliament. Ennahda, the largest opposition party.

Human Rights Watch said in December that Decree 54 had been used to “detain, charge, or investigate at least 20 journalists, lawyers, students, and other critics for their public statements online or in the media.”

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Zied Dabbar, president of Tunisia’s national journalists’ syndicate, condemned Bohaleb’s arrest as an indication that hunting down journalists has become commonplace in Tunisia. He said eight journalists were currently facing trial.

“We cannot produce on-demand news that meets the wishes of those in power,” Darbar told the country’s most-listened-to Mosaic radio station on Monday. private radio station.

“What should a journalist do when he learns that a minister used public funds to travel with a civil servant who did not have to be present? Must he remain silent and not expose the scandal?” he added.

“While respecting privacy, it would be absurd if we did not address the misuse of public funds and corruption of government civil servants who take money out of our pockets to serve us, rather than themselves.”

Bouhaleb’s lawyers told a court hearing on Tuesday that the journalist said he intended to go public with his reporting on corruption and waste of public funds by several ministers and public institutions.

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He goes on trial next month and President Kais Saied is expected to seek re-election in yet-to-be-scheduled elections. After winning the presidency in 2019 on an anti-corruption platform, Saied suspended Tunisia’s parliament, rewrote the constitution to consolidate his power and limited the independence of the judiciary, which has since stepped up its campaign against his critics. and the intensity of pursuit by opponents.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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