Target: Mustapha Ben Jafar, President, Constituent Assembly of Tunisia
Goal: Decriminalize open criticism of the state or government by Tunisian civilians
Recently, a Tunisian rapper, Klay BBJ, was sentenced to six months in prison after performing lyrics at a festival thought to be “insulting to police.” Laws in the country make it illegal to criticize the government or its institutions. Fortunately, the rapper’s sentence was overturned three weeks later, but now it is important to ensure that this kind of incarceration does not continue.
The country has a reputation for infringing on the press’ right to free speech, incarcerating journalists in censorship efforts. The founder of one of Tunisia’s first online public discussion forums- where topics such as women’s rights, freedom of religion and expression, and human rights were often discussed- was sentenced to three years in prison where he reported torture and mistreatment.
A man who released a montage of civilian beatings at the hands of Tunisian police was sentenced to two years without being present at his trial. Upon demanding a retrial, he was sentenced to six months in prison, only for exposing police brutality.
Shortly after his performance with another rapper, Klay BBJ was arrested with his performance partner, and detained for hours before being released pending investigation. They were convicted a week later for defamation of public officials and harming public morals, as well as insulting police authorities. The pair were not notified of their court date, and were convicted in absentia. After the rappers demanded that a new trial be conducted, they were sentenced by a tribunal to six months in prison.
Though they have since been released, these sorts of infringements on the right to free speech are contrary to Tunisian and international rights charters. It is imperative to a functioning democracy that laws be amended to allow non-violent criticism of government institutions and state officials. Your signature will demand that Tunisian lawmakers reassess the infringement on free speech that these laws create.
Dear Mustapha Ben Jafar, President, Constituent Assembly of Tunisia,
Recently, a Tunisian rapper was sentenced to six months in prison for a performance with lyrics that criticized the police. Before that, a man was sentenced to a prison term for releasing video documentation of police brutality. Before that, countless journalists were arrested and detained for bringing light to human rights issues in the country.
These men were prosecuted under laws that prohibit any criticism of the government, its officials, or its operations. Public discussion is vital to amend wrongdoing by state establishments such as the police force and to improve other aspects of human rights in Tunisia. I request that lawmakers immediately amend the laws that allow citizens to be detained for peaceful criticism of state establishments.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Dylan Oliphant via Creative Commons