Tunisia: Human rights associations and organizations call for withdrawing new draft law that would endanger and limit freedom of expression and press

20 Mar, 2020 | Press Releases

Read the statement also here: https://daamdth.org/archives/9090?lang=en

Human rights organizations and associations which undersigned below, express their deep concern at draft law No. 29/2020 on amending Articles 245 and 247 of the Penal Code provisions. As it reflects a blatant contradiction with Articles 31, 32 and 49 of the Tunisian Constitution, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights which was ratified by the Republic Tunisia.

The undersigned associations and organizations condemn the initiative party who in this critical situation which our country is witnessing, demands an urgent consideration of the draft law, which was submitted on March 12 to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People with a plea to refer it in accordance with urgent procedures rules.

The undersigned associations and organizations warns and point out that this draft law will inevitably cancel several Articles of Decree Law 2011-115 of 2 November 2011 on freedom of the press, printing and publishing, as it contains comprehensive legal provisions for the offenses of publishing false news (Article 54) and calumny (Article 55 and 56).

The draft law also contradicts with the constitutional requirements stated in Article 49 of the Constitution, which must be respected when issuing or legislating any rule that would restrict rights and freedoms, as it contains penalties that are disproportionate to the stated criminal acts. Penalties are also unnecessary since the publication of false news is a criminal offense under Article 54 of Decree Law 2011-115 of 2 November 2011 on freedom of the press, printing and publishing.

The undersigned human rights organizations and associations emphasize that while countering spreading and publishing false news is legitimate. However, it should not become a means of violating Articles 31 and 32 of the Tunisian Constitution by using broad terms as the ones that were included in the draft law, such as “defamation committed by hidden figures” which would prejudice digital rights as the right to anonymity. Or other terms such as “questionable speeches” that criminalizes kind of news that is false but is not intended to harm public security or national defense and can be corrected through several legal mechanisms such as the right of reply, correction or through self-adjustment institutions. This makes this legislative initiative violates the condition of legislating legal rules in clear and precise manner.

This legislative proposal also reflects a clear and serious confusion between calumny and publishing false news, as while they share the same fundamental element, which is spreading false news, they differ in terms of the legislative interests that need to be protected. As criminalizing calumny aims at protecting a person’s dignity and reputation, while criminalizing spreading and publishing false news aims at protecting public security, national defense and public health. Moreover, the seriousness of this proposal is reinforced with regard to the documents annexed thereto, Where the reasons for this legislation was emphasized, these reasons, include protecting persons’ certain social and political symbols reputation which constitutes a clear violation of the principle of equality of all citizens before the law, in times where legislation generally tend to promote the latter, protect individual and collective freedoms and ensure dignity for everyone without distinction for any reason whatsoever.

In light of this legislative initiative seriousness on freedom of expression and press, on one hand, and the great violations, it contained, on the other, particularly in light of the legislative framework that criminalizes disseminating false news, as set out in the aforementioned Decree No. 115, the following associations and organizations call upon the initiators to withdraw it immediately.


1. Tunisian General Labour Union

2. General Union of Tunisian students

3. Tunisian Federation of Associative Media

4. National Union of Tunisian Women

5. Alliance for Tunisian women

6. Association Jossour for Developing Medinin

7. Tunisian Federation of Newspaper Directors

8. Chapter 2 Association

9. Association Beity

10. Association for Promoting the Right to Difference

11. Attalaki Association

12. Association for development and Strategic Studies of Medinin

13. Tunisian Association for governance and social accountability

14. Tunisian Association for Defending Individual Liberties

15. The Tunisian association for the defense of university values

16. The Tunisian Association for Amazigh Culture

17. Tunisian Association for Investigative Journalism

18. Tunisian Association for Democratic Women

19. The Tunisian Association for Rights and freedom

20. Karama Association for the Arab Family

21. Mosaic Association

22. The Association of the Tunisian Judges

23. Citizenship and Freedom Association

24. Tunisian Women Association for Research and Development

25. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

26. DAMJ Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality

27. Tunisian Human Rights League

28. Tunisian Electors League

29. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

30. International Federation for Human Rights

31. Kalam Organization

32. Committee for Respecting Liberties and Human Rights

33. Ahmed Al-Tlili Organization for Democratic Culture

34. Reporters without Borders

35. Democratic Transition and Human Rights Support Center (DAAM)

36. Tunis Center for Press Freedom

37. Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights

38. Access Now Organization

39. Article 19 Organization

40. 23-10 Organization for Supporting the Democratic Transition Path

41. National Syndicate of Tunisian journalists

42. No Peace without Justice