A Tunis court's decision to fine a TV boss for spreading information which can disturb the public order after he screened an animated French movie is a sign of the continuing erosion of free speech in Tunisia, Amnesty International said.
Nabil Karoui was fined 2,400 Tunisian Dinar ($1,500) after his station broadcast the animated French film
Persepolis dubbed into Tunisian Arabic dialect in October 2011. The film was criticized for being blasphemous because of a scene showing a representation of God.
Karoui's lawyers have confirmed that he will be appealing the verdict.
On a day that is meant to celebrate world press freedom, Tunisia has shown its failure to respect the basic right of freedom of expression. Nabil Karoui should not have been tried to begin with, let alone found guilty for exercising his right to
peacefully express his views , said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.
Two others have also been found guilty of participating in the crime: Nadia Jamal, head of the
organization that dubbed the movie into Tunisian dialect, and Alhadi Boughanim, responsible for monitoring programs. Both have also been fined.
While protecting public morals or public order may sometimes be a legitimate reason for restricting
freedom of expression, such restrictions may only be imposed if absolutely necessary. This is clearly not the situation in these cases -- people should not be convicted and sentenced for their views, even if these views are seen as controversial or
offensive, said Ann Harrison.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemns the Moroccan authorities for their confiscation of the last issue of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur due to its publishing of an image adopted from the French-Iranian film Persepolis
The mentioned issue of the magazine was supposed to be distributed on 2 February 2012 and addressed Persepolis, an animated film about the suffering of an Iranian family following the Iranian revolution in 1979, forcing the family to travel
to France. Persepolis seems to have offended by a depiction of the muslim god as an old man.
Violence broke out outside the Tunisian courthouse where TV executive Nabil Karoui was on trial for blasphemy. Extremists attacked the people rallying in his support.
Karoui, the owner of a television station in Tunis, is charged with
violating sacred values and disturbing public order for airing Persepolis , the award-winning animated film about the 1979 Iranian revolution that depicts God as a bearded old man.
The attackers believe that the film violates
Islamic values forbidding the depiction of God.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has condemned the most recent violence and affirmed his commitment to freedom of expression. But as the trial is continuing then affirmation is not worth much.
The head of Nessuna TV has appeared in court in Tunis on charges of undermining sacred values, undermining decent standards and causing trouble to public order.
The case, which has been brought against Nabil Karoui and two of his employees
by 140 lawyers, follows the broadcast by his private TV station of the film Persepolis on 7 October.
The animated film, based on Marjane Strapi's novel about the 1979 revolution in Iran, supposedly 'offended' many Muslims because in one
scene it depicts their god as an old man with a beard. Literal images of their god are forbidden by Islam.
Karoui apologised for the scene, but anger at its transmission erupted into street demonstrations in the Tunisian capital last month,
culminating in Karoui's home being firebombed.
He told AFP that he will plead not guilty to the charges. The hearing was adjourned and will resume in Tunis on 23 January 2012.
Police in Tunis used tear gas to try to disperse hundreds of muslim extremists who were attacking them with stones, knives and batons.
The Islamists were protesting a decision to broadcast animated film Persepolis which they said denigrated
Islam. They were also protesting against a ban on women who wear the niqab, or full-face veil, enrolling in university.
This was the biggest clashes over religion in the Tunisian capital for several years.
Tunisian extremists have firebombed the home of a TV station chief. About a hundred men, some of whom threw Molotov cocktails, lay siege to
the home of Nabil Karoui, the head of the private television station Nessma late on Friday, the station reported in its evening news bulletin.
Sofiane Ben Hmida, one of Nessma's star reporters, told AFP the station chief was not at home when the
attack on his house took place. But his wife and children were. About 20 of the protesters had managed to get inside. The family managed to get out the back and are safe. The attackers wrecked the house and set it on fire.
spokesman Hichem Meddeb told AFP around a hundred people had turned up outside the house, forced their way inside, broken the windows and torn out two gas pipes. Five people had been arrested, he added.
This was the most serious incident yet in an
escalating series of protests against the station's broadcast of Persepolis on October 7. The globally acclaimed animated film on Iran's 1979 revolution 'offended' many Muslims because it depicts an image of God as an old, bearded man.
Earlier on Friday, police fired tear gas at demonstrators as some of the protests against the station degenerated. The main demonstration began peacefully at a central Tunis mosque after Friday prayers, with men and women chanting slogans against Nessma. Thousands of people, many of them Salafist Muslims, were present.
Karoui has already apologised for having broadcast the film.
Update: 3000 Protest in defence of freedom of expression
Around 3,000 people peacefully demonstrated in the capital of Tunisia Sunday in defence of freedom of expression, two days after a violent protest against the broadcast of an animated and supposedly blasphemous film Persepolis .
demonstration was meant as a riposte after the violent protests that followed the broadcast last week by Nessma TV, a private channel, of the film about the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The film by French-Iranian director Marjane
Satrapi, based on the autobiographical graphic novels of the same name, show the author as a young girl chafing under the clampdown on civil liberties and discussing her frustrations with God.
We're demonstrating against extremism, for freedom
of expression, including artistic freedom, Semia Mahfoudh, a high school teacher, who attended Sunday's demonstration, told dpa. She said she feared that if Ennahda came to power, Tunisia's tradition of secularism and commitment to gender equality
would be jeopardized.