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Tunisian Journalist Mohamed Boughalleb Sentenced To Prison For Insulting A Public Official

Tunisian journalist’s six-month prison sentence for insulting an official has raised concerns about press freedom in Tunisia.

Tunisian prominent journalist Mohamed Boughalleb speaks during the filming of his show to broadcast via YouTube, in Tunis, Tunisia September 30, 2022. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui

A Tunisian court handed down a six-month prison sentence to prominent journalist Mohamed Boughalleb on Wednesday, citing charges of insulting a public official.

“It is a black day for the judiciary and freedom of the press. It is a message to journalists, be silent or your place is in prison,” remarked Jamal Eddine Boughalleb, brother of Mohamed.

Boughalleb’s detention last month, labeled by the journalists union as an attempt to stifle dissenting voices, has heightened concerns among activists that authorities are tightening restrictions on freedoms ahead of anticipated presidential elections later this year.

President Kais Saied, who seized extra powers in 2021 by dissolving the elected parliament and transitioning to rule by decree, has faced criticism for his control over the judiciary.

Since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the country has prided itself on press freedom, with its media regarded as one of the most open in the Arab world. However, politicians, journalists, and unions now warn of a significant threat to press freedom under Saied’s leadership.

Despite accusations of authoritarianism, Saied, elected in 2019, has vehemently denied such claims, asserting his commitment to democratic principles.

The imprisonment of Boughalleb adds to concerns, with two other journalists, Shatha Al-Hajj Mubarak and Lotfi Al-Hidouri, currently incarcerated. Moreover, several journalists and activists are under judicial scrutiny for social media posts or critiques of the authorities in the press.

Melissa Enoch

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