Hundreds of Tunisian protesters rally against controversial media decree

Hundreds of Tunisian protesters rally against controversial media decree

Several hundred Tunisians marched in the capital on Friday, chanting "down with the dictatorship" in protest at recent arrests under a controversial presidential decree, AFP reports. Critics say Decree 54, a  ban on "spreading false news," is being used to stifle dissent.

Protesters shouted “down with the decree” and “dictator Kais(Saied), it’s your turn now,”alluding to the 2011 Arab Spring uprising which toppled the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

On Wednesday two prominent media figures - Borhen Bssaisand Mourad Zeghidi were sentenced to a year in jail- six months for spreading "false news" and a further six months for "spreading news that includes false information with the aim of defaming others". Zeghidi's lawyer, Kamel Massoud, called Decree 54 "unconstitutional," saying, "When politics enters the courtroom, justice leaves." 

Since the decree's enactment in 2022, over 60 journalists, lawyers, and opposition figures have been prosecuted, according to the National Union of Tunisian Journalists. The arrests have drawn international criticism from the UN, EU, US, and France, but Saied, who assumed sweeping powers in 2021, dismissed the criticism as foreign "interference."

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