Prominent Tunisian journalist given six months for defamation

AFP , Wednesday 17 Apr 2024

A Tunisian court Wednesday condemned a journalist and brutal critic of President Kais Saied to six months in prison for defaming a civil servant, his brother and lawyer told AFP.

Tunisia police
File photo: Tunisian police. AFP


Mohamed Boughalleb was arrested by a cybercrime unit a month ago following a complaint filed by a civil servant.

The complainant, a woman working in the Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs, accused Boughalleb of "damaging her honour and reputation" in Facebook posts and according to local media.

Boughalleb had suggested on social media and private radio that overseas trips by the official were a form of "corruption and waste of public resources."

The journalist, who suffers from diabetes and heart trouble, did not attend the first hearing last week, but was present Wednesday.

One of his lawyers, Jalel Hammami, said "Mohamed Boughalleb is paying for having exercised his freedom of expression. What happened to him is a disgrace."

Zied Dabbar, President of the National Journalists Union (SNJT), said the incident was "none other than the latest attempt to intimidate and muzzle journalists by exploiting the apparatus of the state".

Boughalleb is known for his criticism of the political class and President Saied, as well as for his investigative work on corruption.

A number of Saied's opponents are behind bars as Tunisia prepares for presidential elections set to take place later this year.

According to SNJT, about 20 journalists are currently facing legal charges which the union has said is linked to their work.

Local and international NGOs have decried a rollback of freedoms in Tunisia since President Saied granted himself full powers on 25 July 2021.

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