Tunisia – Tunisians reject new cybercrime law and consider it a restriction of freedoms
Location: Tunisia, Tunis
Source: A24 Tunis
Restriction: A24 subscribers
President Kais Saied’s Decree 54 on combating crimes related to information and communication systems, which is criticized by all parties, associations, and organizations, sparked controversy across Tunisia. Tunisian parties considered the decree as a confirmation of establishing a legislative and political system that restricts rights and freedoms and deprives citizens of their right to expression and publication. The head of the Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists, Mohamed Yassin Al-Jelassi, told A24 that the new law includes vague and undefined clauses to which people are sentenced to very severe penalties, with the aim of restricting freedom of the press, expression, and publication.
Soundbite (Muhammad Yassin Al-Jelassi – Syndicate of Journalists):
“We think this project is dangerous. First, the fight against information and communication crimes and rumors is used as a pretext to restrict the freedom of the press, expression, and publication of all citizens, including journalists. It also includes vague and undefined clauses under which people are given severe penalties of up to 5 and 10 years in publication cases, which penalties are usually not that severe. There is also no clear legal provision about those who intentionally publish or republish. Instead, all clauses are general such as national security, public morals, and interests, which are not considered a specific punishable offense.
Penalties are harsh and even in underdeveloped countries, there are no such penalties. It (decree) also contradicts Article 55 of the Constitution, which states that freedom of the press and publication is guaranteed, and no prior censorship may be imposed on these freedoms. It also contradicts previous decrees and laws such as the law on access to information and decrees 115 and 116 related to the press and audio-visual communication, which specify penalties for whoever publishes, whether he is a journalist or a citizen.”
Soundbite (Naglaa Qiddiya – from the Democratic modernist pole party):
“All this is reasonable and we have been waiting for it for years. But the way the law is written and the penalties imposed, which are freedom-depriving punishments, cannot be accepted. The penalties range from 6 months for those deemed to have disclosed a professional secret to those conducting the investigation, up to 20 years in prison. Fines range between 10 million and 500 million Tunisian dinars. Yes, we were waiting for this bill, but not in this way. All the chapters talk about cyber-attacks and how the state can be protected from these attacks, except for Chapter 24, which seems to have been included in the law only to silence people. Rather, it came to silence rumors and other news that talk about the loss of basic materials, high prices, and a year of individual rule in light of the worsening inflation, unemployment, and illegal immigration. The authority does not like this, and the solution to stop false rumors according to the authority’s opinion is to issue such a decree to silence everyone.”
Soundbite (Issam Chebbi – from the Republican Party):
“The law prevents citizens from complaining, politicians from protesting, and journalists from reporting reality to public opinion. We call on politicians, civil rights activists, the media, and civil society to come together to fight this law and enjoy some freedom in our country. We do not accept being slaves again after we were liberated thanks to the revolution of freedom and dignity.”