Tunisia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Tunisia

Tunisia

Freedom of the Press 2009

2009 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

82

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

31

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

24
  • The constitution guarantees freedom of the press except under “conditions laid down by law,” but the government did not respect this right in practice. The Press Law criminalizes defamation, and those who violate the law can be imprisoned and fined; offensive statements about the president carry prison sentences of up to five years. Tunisia does not have a freedom of information law.
  • Government censorship is still routine, as is self-censorship among journalists. In April 2008, the government censored Al-Mawkif, an opposition weekly, and the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that four successive issues of the paper were barred from circulation. Some of the harassment against Al-Mawkif likely stems from the fact that Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, the managing editor, has announced his plans to run for president in 2009 against the incumbent, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In November, the authorities censored the French weekly L’Express for reportedly attacking Islam in an article on religion.
  • Journalists who cross the government’s red lines face harassment, beatings, and potential imprisonment. Interrogation and detention of members of the media is also common. In July, journalist Slim Boukhdir was released early from a prison sentence, having been held in harsh conditions and denied medical care. On September 20, plainclothes police officers abducted him, threatened him with physical assault, and seized his passport in retaliation for an article in which he called on President Ben Ali to take action on human rights and press freedom reforms.
  • There are eight major dailies, including two owned by the government and two owned by the ruling party. Broadcast media are regulated by the Tunisian Frequencies Agency, which tightly controls the allocation of licenses and frequencies. Many foreign satellite stations can be viewed in Tunisia, although the government has been known to block transmissions from time to time.
  • According to the Tunisian Ministry of Communication Technologies, there were 2.8 million internet users in 2008. Internet cafes are state run and under police surveillance, and users must register their names and other personal information before accessing the internet. Opposition websites and social-networking sites are routinely blocked by the government. In October, the French-hosted website of the online magazine Kalima was hacked, destroying eight years of archives. Sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Dailymotion are frequently blocked. Punishments for online dissidents are severe and remain similar to those for print and broadcast journalists who publish information deemed objectionable by the government.