Human rights groups join in statement calling Tunisia government to end crackdown on free speech News
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Human rights groups join in statement calling Tunisia government to end crackdown on free speech

A group of human rights organizations in a joint statement released on Tuesday called on the government of Tunisia to end its recent crackdown on free speech and free association and to uphold respect for human rights as attacks on journalists, lawyers and human rights groups have “significantly escalated” in the last month. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and MENA Rights Group are among the twelve organizations that are signatories to the statement.

In May, widespread protest and concern erupted over the sentencing of Tunisian journalists for spreading false news and the government’s raiding of Tunisia’s bar association. The joint statement highlights these concerns and further includes the intimidation and detainment of individuals associated with at least twelve civil society organizations. The organization points out that journalists and lawyers are face prosecution under Decree 54, which punishes the use of communication systems to spread false news and rumours to defame others or cause harm to public safety. The civil society organizations particularly targeted are those committed to safeguarding the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers

The joint statement further raises concern about the risk the Tunisian government may make changes to Decree 88, which protects the right of freedom of association in Tunisia, following the Prime Minister’s announcement on May 13 that a new draft law on associations was being finalized for approval. The Tunisian government in announcing the changes stated the aim is to regulate and streamline the mechanisms of establishing associations. However, it is unclear at this stage what the substance of the draft includes.

In light of these crackdowns the statement calls for Tunisian authorities to “urgently reverse course by releasing all those arbitrarily detained including journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders arrested in the past month, in addition to all political opponents and critics, and by protecting the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.”