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Freedom of Expression
Home > Country focus > Tunisia > UN Expert Calls on Tunisia to Protect Freedom of Expression

UN Expert Calls on Tunisia to Protect Freedom of Expression

Tuesday 2 April 2013, by Tunisia Live

Elena Lesley - TunisiaLive

Tunisia should strive to enshrine freedom of expression and information in its constitution, laws, and official bodies, Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion, stated Tuesday during a press conference in Tunis. This is especially true, he added, because of the role the Internet played in mobilizing youth during the 2011 revolution.

“This country should have a particular commitment to freedom of expression,” he said, adding that such freedom “can topple dictators. But also, control of expression can bring back dictatorial regimes.”

His comments come amid growing concern over the state of freedom of expression — in particular, that of the media — since the revolution. Reports of attacks against journalists have increased in recent months and the government has failed to pass two draft laws that would help protect media freedom. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior has proposed creating a new body to monitor the Internet.

La Rue said he came to Tunisia to participate in “Exchanges on Normative and Institutional Guarantees of Freedom of Expression,” a conference held today and tomorrow organized by the Council of Europe, Organization Internationale de La Francophonie and the Arab Institute for Human Rights.

He will also hold informal meetings with various officials while he is in the country, including President Moncef Marzouki and Mustapha Ben Jafaar, Speaker of the National Constituent Assembly.

La Rue said he would offer technical support and advice to officials and “is eager to see the process in Tunisia advance.”

La Rue responded to the claim of one conference participant that the media is excessively anti-government.

“The press will be critical of every government,” he said, because people who hold political office are accountable to society and it is the job of journalists to monitor their actions and decisions.

“Governments get very sensitive about that … but this is absurd,” he added.

Although a number of governments claim the need for increased monitoring and censorship in the interest of national security, La Rue said that “the majority of information should be public.”

In order to guarantee freedom of expression, Tunisia should create a regulatory body that is “absolutely independent,” he said. President Marzouki has recently been accused by Tunisian journalists of delaying the creation of an official body that would regulate domestic media, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA).

At the same time, La Rue continued, members of the press need to self-regulate and conduct their work in an ethical manner.

“This is not censorship,” he said. “It is establishing professional values.”

SOURCE: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/04/02/un-expert-calls-on-tunisia-to-protect-freedom-of-expression/

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