Free speech in Tunisia will continue to remain in jeopardy as a new year kicks off. During the next few months, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) is scheduled to adopt Tunisia’s new constitution. Last December, the NCA published a second draft constitution which guarantees the right to free speech and prohibits prior censorship. Yet a vague and repressive legal framework created by former President Zeine el-Abidin Ben Ali to silence dissident voices is still in place, and free speech advocates remain concerned over Islamist vows to criminalise blasphemy. Although Ben Ali’s autocratic rule ended almost two years ago, his legacy remains on the books. Ben Ali-era laws represent a serious threat to free speech. Last year, the public prosecutor’s office [...]
All Posts Tagged ‘
December 17, 2012
by Shahira Amin
A 27 year-old Egyptian blogger has been released on bail pending an appeal of his 12 December conviction for blasphemy and contempt of religion. He was sentenced to three years in jail. A Coptic Christian turned atheist, Alber Saber was arrested at his home three months ago after neighbours accused him of circulating the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims on his Facebook page. Although Saber denied the charge — and the prosecutor did not produce any evidence to support that claim — he was convicted and kept behind bars in a tiny cell at Cairo’s Tora prison until his release on Monday. Saber ran an atheist group on Facebook and the prosecution is based on comparative religion material found on his bookshelf [...]
It started with an arrest so farcical the facts seem to defy belief. In October, a 27-year-old man on the Greek island of Evia was arrested and charged with “blasphemy and insults against Elder Paisios and Orthodox Christianity” for setting up a satirical Facebook page lampooning a deceased monk held in high regard by pockets of the media and political parties. The Hellenic police claim the arrest of was prompted by “thousands of complaints” though curiously it came shortly after Christos Pappas, an MP for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, implored the government to stamp out the “blasphemous” page. In a play on the Flying Spaghetti Monster meme and the traditional Greek dish pastitsio, the unnamed 27-year old renamed the monk [...]
In Tunisia, politicians and the people are abandoning freedom of expression. In a conservative society, Islamists’ obsession with blasphemy and the opposition’s passivity in defying an illiberal constitutional clause are placing free speech and Tunisia’s democratic transition under threat. After years of being deprived of it, the Tunisian public agrees that freedom of expression is a fundamental right which needs to be guaranteed by the country’s new constitution. Six assembly committees which were elected last February have separately drafted different sections of the text which is yet to be presented for debate and voted in the 217-member constituent assembly. An absolute majority is required for the adoption of each article. MPs will then have to approve the entire draft by a two-thirds majority. [...]
Alber Saber, a young Egyptian blogger and computer science graduate has been arrested and detained for allegedly posting a trailer for an anti-Islam film on Facebook. The trailer for the film “Innocence of Muslims” deemed insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, had earlier been lifted from YouTube in Egypt after it sparked anti-US protests.