Tunisian reporters react to controversial press bill
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 12/07/11
Tunisian journalists are expressing concern over a proposed media law that they say would limit their ability to report.
"The restraining aspect of the law is inadmissible and we are working on changing it," said Thameur Zoghlami, a member of the executive office of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), which met July 6th to discuss the bill.
The bill includes a provision that would make it a crime to reveal the identity of national security officials, army officers, and customs agents. Article 58 of the legislation would subject journalists to a fine between 1,000 and 2,000 dinars if they broke the code.
"We already held meetings with law and press experts, and we plan to get some journalists involved before the draft is submitted to the High Commission for Realisation of Revolutionary Goals," Zoghlami said.
"Special attention was given to prevent the Ministry of Interior from interfering in journalism and press affairs," the bill read. "This power was granted to courts in all matters related to any step of expression of ideas and opinions or transmission of information and news. At the same time, several duties and limits are meant to be respected in any democratic society, in order to not deviate from the goals for which this law was developed."
But some Tunisian journalists were not satisfied with the assurances.
"This draft is a scandal, with all the meaning that the word holds," journalist Nasreddine Ben Hadid told Magharebia. "The draft is a bad translation of the Moroccan law, which was originally written in French and which is inadequate to the reality of Tunisian press."
Ben Hadid also raised issue with the legislation being drawn up by an unelected council. "The committee parachuted the draft and excluded many figures from taking part in the decision. Such practices may lead us to live again the same nightmare of the Ben Ali era. That is an attempt to hold back the press in Tunisia, and it is a very dangerous sign," he added.
"The best solution would be to get everyone involved in the drafting of the law, including the journalists union, members of civil society and the relevant ministries," Ben Hadid commented.
"Every party would present their requests and concerns. Then all the suggestions will be given to the drafting group that will take care of drafting a Press Law, which would meet the needs of all the regions of the country and that will please and gain the respect of everyone," he said.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.