Tunisia enforces measures against online criticism of officials. Sharing false news and criticizing state symbols could lead to legal action.
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Tunisia has announced its intention to take legal action against individuals who use social media platforms to criticize government officials, according to an announcement made jointly by the Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Technology on Wednesday.
Cracking Down on Online Criticism
The Tunisian government has unveiled a series of steps aimed at identifying social media users who are spreading “false news, data, and rumors” to harm the reputation of state officials and state symbols. This move comes in response to what the government sees as an attempt to undermine the stability of the state.
Prosecution for Sharing Offensive Content
Moreover, the three ministries have highlighted that even individuals who share content created by others could face legal consequences. The government emphasizes that sharing content within their definition of harmful material might lead to criminal charges.
President saied’s Perspective
During a recent cabinet meeting at the Carthage Palace, President Kais Saied expressed his concerns about the situation. He accused those who spread critical content online of ulterior motives, suggesting their aim is to create chaos and destabilize the nation. He stated that certain groups appear to be orchestrating defamation campaigns and threats, specifically targeting individuals in official positions.
To curb the spread of false information and protect public security, President Saied issued a decree in September, setting the groundwork for strict penalties against offenders. Those who use information networks to propagate false news that jeopardizes public security and national defense could face a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of 50,000 Tunisian dinars (equivalent to $15,600). The severity of the punishment could double, resulting in a prison term of up to 10 years if the victim of the false information is a public official.
Since introducing these measures, there have been cases involving bloggers, activists, and journalists facing legal charges related to their online criticisms of President Saied and his government. In some instances, political opponents have been incarcerated due to their online expressions.
The Tunisian government’s move to regulate online criticism reflects its commitment to maintaining stability and preventing the misuse of digital platforms to spread false information that could harm the state’s and its officials’ interests.