International NGOs calls for Tunisian government to withdraw draft broadcasting bill that threatens freedom of expression

Thirty six NGOs and professional groups say draft law restricts freedom of expression and independent broadcasting. The undersigned regional and international NGOs join Tunisian organisations in their demands that the government immediately withdraw a draft law on the broadcasting regulator which fails to meet international standards on freedom of expression and independent broadcasting in democratic countries.

As part of the important process of harmonising Tunisian legislation with the 2014 Constitution, a draft law was submitted to the Assembly of People’s Representatives in December 2017 and it is currently under review by the parliamentary Commission of Rights and Freedoms. The draft law would partly replace the existing legislation in this area –Decree-Law No. 116-2011, on the Freedom of Broadcasting Communication and the creation of  the Higher Independent Audio-Visual Communication Authority (HAICA) – with new legislation solely establishing a new broadcasting regulator, the Audio-Visual  Commission.

The draft law and associated reforms have already been criticised by civil society, as the bill was prepared by the Tunisian government without substantial prior dialogue with local human rights and professional groups.

In June and again in December 2017, Tunisian and international human rights and professional groups wrote open letters to President Beji Caid Essebsi, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Ennacer and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, expressing their deep concern about the draft law, its “unsatisfactory wording”, the “dangerous restrictions” of the prerogatives of the broadcasting regulator it would create, and the “deficiencies in the safeguards guaranteeing” its independence.

They also explained that fragmenting of the legal framework “would open the door to ambiguity, conflict and limitation of the freedom of audiovisual communication and the independence of the regulatory body.” There has been no response.
Two legal analyses of the draft Law were made public in Tunis in early January 2018 by Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State (VDCS) and by ARTICLE 19, which concluded that the draft law did not comply with applicable international standards.

We, the undersigned, call on the Tunisian government to immediately withdraw its draft law and initiate a constructive dialogue with relevant civil society and professional groups, independent media experts, and members of parliament. Such a dialogue would help pave the way for the adoption of a comprehensive audiovisual law, in line with the 2014 Constitution and international standards.


I/ IFEX Members:

•  Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
•  Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
•  Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
•  Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research
•  Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS)
•  Bahrain Center for Human Rights
•  Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
•  Center for Independent Journalism – Romania
•  Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
•  Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
•  Digital Rights Foundation
•  Foro de Periodismo Argentino
•  Foundation for Press Freedom – FLIP
•  Freedom Forum
•  Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
•  Index on Censorship
•  Maharat Foundation
•  Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
•  National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
•  Pakistan Press Foundation
•  Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
•  Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
•  Trinidad and Tobago’s Publishers and Broadcasters Association
•  World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
•  World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

II/ Non-IFEX Members

–    Association Ifouki Media Bladi (IBM), Morocco
–    Community Radios Association (ARAM), Morocco
–    Center for Media Freedom (CMF), Morocco
–    Organization for Freedom of Expression and of the Media (OLIE), Morocco
–    Forum for alternatives in Morocco (FEMAS)
–    Freedom Now, Morocco
–    International Media Support (IMS)
–    Lawyers for Justice in Libya
–    Libya Al-Mostakbal Center for Media and Culture
–    Libyan Center for Press freedom (LCPF)
–    Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism (AMJI)


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