Tunisia: lawyers strike amid crackdown on dissent

In an unprecedented move, striking lawyers from across Tunisia rallied in front of court buildings in Tunis on May 16, effectively bringing all proceedings to a halt. The unified action comes in response to what legal professionals are describing as a dangerous escalation by the government targeting their community. The Tunisia Lawyers Council called for a nationwide strike after police conducted a raid on the headquarters of Tunisia's bar association and arrested Sonia Dahmani, a prominent attorney and critic of the government. The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT)  joined other civil society organizations in lending their support to the striking lawyers.

Dahmani was arrested over sarcastic remarks she had made on a local television program. She was charged with distributing false information and disrupting public order under Article 24 of Decree 54, a Tunisian national law that purports to combat disseminating "fake news" and rumors on media and the internet.

Dahmani was taking refuge on the Bar Association premises when hooded men stormed the building and took her away on May 11. That same evening, authorities arrested television and radio presenter Borhen Bssais and columnist Mourad Zeghidi under Article 24. These arrests come amid an increasing crackdown by the Tunisian government on dissidents and critics using provisions of Decree 54.

International organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed concern over the use of Article 24, which provides for the fining and imprisonment of up to five years to curb dissent, and have called it a violation of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

From Jurist, May 16; Jurist, May 13. Used with permission.

Tunisia journalists sentenced to prison

The Court of First Instance in Tunis on May 22 sentenced journalists Mourad Zghidi and Borhen Bsaiss to one year in prison for spreading false news that harms public security. (Jurist)