a test for freedom of expression in Tunisia

Tunisian blogger Emna Chargui is on trial in Tunis on Thursday for handing over a surah from the Quran on social networks, diverted to encourage people to wash their hands against Covid-19. A text that she is not the author, but which she only shared.

Emna Chargui imagined that she would make her followers laugh; she risks paying a high price. The 27-year-old Tunisian woman faces three years in prison and a fine of 2000 dinars (about 620 euros) for sharing in May on Facebook a parody of the Koran. With the text “SourateCorona”, the text written by an Algerian surfer living in France, takes the form of a Quranic surah to invite internet users to wash their hands during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It took him badly. On May 4, the blogger was called by the judicial police and two days later she went to justice for violating Article 6 of the Tunisian Constitution, which states that “the state protects religion” and “the holy”. Seven members of a prosecutor’s office then subjected her to close interrogation. On May 7, she was accused of “inciting hatred between religions for the use of hostile methods or violence” under Article 52 of the Freedom of Press Regulation. His trial, scheduled for May 28, was postponed to July 2.

“I had no bad intentions”

In addition to the prosecutors’ relentlessness, the young woman must face death threats, threats, demand rape which is passed on to social networks. Asked on May 28 by France 24, Emna Chargui said she was scared and overwhelmed by events.

“I’m really scared that I had no bad intentions, I didn’t think it would take such a scale and that we would end up with threats. I have no protection so I came to the point of being afraid of my own life. has no future in Tunisia. I’m no longer safe there. “

It is, among other things, this innocence that her lawyer will invoke, who believes that “the case has become too big compared to Emna Chargui’s intentions. She just wanted to express herself freely on her Facebook profile and not deny”, says Lilia Blaise, France 24 correspondent in Tunisia.

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“This trial has no place to be”

Since the case began, Emna Chargui has had support from several human rights associations who believe that diverting the Qur’an to save lives is not illegal. On May 27th Amnesty International urged the Tunisian authorities to “end the prosecution of Emna Chargui” and to “investigate and provide protection for the disturbing threats of death and rape she receives.”

Asked by France 24, FIDH representative [Fédération internationale pour les droits humains]in Tunis, Khitem Bargaoui, believes that this trial “does not take place”. “The trial that should be held should be the one against those who called to rape and kill Emna.”

“We can understand that the text violates the sensitivity but not that it leads to a mood. In addition, it should be emphasized that Emna did not produce this content, she just forwarded it. She wanted to circulate very important information about the virus in a different way with humor. It is very disappointing to experience this in Tunisia, “laments Khitem Bargaoui,

The 2014 Constitution would guarantee freedom of expression

However, this case is not a first in Tunisia that has already experienced media trials to “undermine the sacred”. In 2012, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Béji were sentenced to seven years in prison for “moral damage, slander and disruption of public order” following the publication of cartoons by Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. The same year, businessman Nabil Karoui was tried to “attack the sacred” after broadcasting on his television channel, Nessma TV, the film from the Franco-Iranian director Marjane Satrapi, “Persépolis”.

“This case is the new thing Constitution 2014 which of course protects religion, but also guarantees freedom of conscience and expression, “emphasizes Lilia Blaise.” The problem is that we continue to have laws that do not respect this constitution, “said Khitem Bargaoui, who waits to know what role the state will play in protecting fundamental freedoms.

Nine months after the president came to power Kaïs Saïed, this trial is seen as a life test of freedom of expression and the real will of the powers to protect it.


Trial of blasphemy in Tunisia: “This trial has no place to be”