Tunisia Remands Journalists Arrested over Critical Comments

A Tunisian court on Wednesday ordered two journalists to be held in remand until the completion of investigations into critical comments, a court spokesman said.
Broadcaster Borhen Bssais and political commentator Mourad Zeghidi were arrested Saturday under a decree criminalizing “spreading false information” among other charges, spokesman Mohamed Zitouna said.
Zeghidi is being investigated over social media statements last February and a post in support of Mohamed Boughalleb, another journalist and critic of President Kais Saied who has been detained separately.
Bssais was arrested on accusations of “having harmed President Kais Saied through radio broadcasts and statements” online between 2019 and 2022, according to his lawyer Nizar Ayed.
Their trial is set to begin on May 22, according to their lawyers.
Both media figures are prosecuted under a law ratified by Saied in September 2022.
Journalists and opposition figures have said it has been used to stifle dissent.
Since the decree came into force, more than 60 journalists, lawyers and opposition figures have been prosecuted under it, according to the National Union of Tunisian Journalists.
The same night Bssais and Zeghidi were taken into police custody, masked police raided the Tunisian bar association and arrested lawyer Sonia Dahmani, also the same law.
On Monday, another lawyer was forcibly arrested at the association’s headquarters.
The president of the bar, Hatem Meziou, on Tuesday called for an end to “the abuse of power” and “violence” targeting the lawyers.
The European Union also expressed concern over a string of arrests of civil society figures in Tunisia — the latest sign of a tightening clampdown on freedoms under Saied.
Non-governmental organizations have decried a rollback of freedoms in Tunisia since Saied began ruling by decree after a sweeping power grab in 2021.

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