05/27/2020

Urgent Action: Blogger Prosecuted for Humorous Post (Tunisia: UA 91.20)


On 2 May 2020, 27-year-old Tunisian blogger Emna Chargui shared a Facebook post that she found on social media of text that imitates the verses of Quran to make fun of the COVID-19 situation. The text is void of any incitement to hatred or violence. It is intended to be funny and it even includes a call for staying home and washing hands. Emna now faces up to three years in prison for this post. On 6 May 2020, the Court of First Instance in Tunis charged her with inciting hatred between religions through hostile means or violence and “offending authorized religions” under articles 52 and 53 of the Tunisian Press Code.

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Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Tunisia Bechir Akremi
c/o Ambassador Fayçal Gouia
Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia
1515 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20005
Phone: 202 601 4124 I Fax: 202 862 1858
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @TuniEmbassy
Facebook: @Tunisianembassyusa
Contact Form: https://bit.ly/2Buu7Jm
Salutation: Your Excellency

Your Excellency,

On 6 May 2020, Tunisian blogger Emna Chargui was charged with “inciting hatred between religions through hostile means or violence” and “offending authorized religions” under Articles 52 and 53 respectively of the Tunisian press code, which regulates the work of the press in Tunisia, for sharing a text on social media on 2 May  2020 about the COVID-19 pandemic that imitates the format of a Quran verse. She could be imprisoned for up to three years as a result.

The prosecutor initiated the case against Emna based on Article 6 of the 2014 Tunisian constitution which states that “the state is the guardian of religion and freedom of conscience and belief.” On 4 May, Emna received the summons from the judicial police for investigation.

On 6 May, she appeared before the prosecution who refused to allow her lawyers to accompany her. Emna entered the court room alone and reported feeling intimidated with a panel of seven officials at the prosecutor’s office who interrogated her for half an hour including about her religious beliefs. One member of the prosecution even asked her if she had consulted a psychotherapist suggesting that she might be mentally disturbed. Emna is awaiting a trial on 28 May 2020. After her post went viral, Emna received death threats and calls for rape and other violence against her on social media.

I ask you to drop all charges against Emna Chargui for her social media post which is protected by the right to freedom of expression since it does not incite hatred or violence. I call on you to ensure her protection and open an investigation into the threats that she has received. I finally call on you to amend clauses in the Tunisian law that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely,

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