REEDOM ON THE
example, in May 2011, the Tunis Permanent Military Tribunal ordered the blocking of five
Facebook pages on charges of defamation against the military and its leaders.
The ATI could only
implement the verdict for a short period of time, citing “technical issues” that occurred as a result
of a 15 GB increase in internet traffic and a breakdown of filtering machinery.
That same month, a
Tunis-based primary court ordered filtering of X-rated content based on a complaint lodged by
three lawyers, who argued that the sites were a threat to minors and the country’s Muslim values.
After the ATI lost an appeal, the verdict was eventually overturned by Tunisia’s highest appeal
court, the Cassation Court, in February 2012 on the grounds that the ATI lacked the technical
capacity to implement the mandated filtering.
Explaining the reasoning behind the ATI’s move to
appeal the court verdicts, ATI president Moez Chakchouk stated, “This is not about pornography;
it’s a matter of principle. In post-revolutionary Tunisia, we are determined to break with the
former regime’s censorship practices.” Interestingly, although the ATI was obliged to practice
filtering during the former regime, there is no law that formally requires this filtering.
Although the government no longer advocates censorship, several laws from the Ben Ali era
continue to pose a significant threat to internet freedom, even if they are sporadically enforced.
Under Article 1 of the 1997 Telecommunications Decree,
ISPs remain legally liable for third-
party content. Furthermore, Article 9 of the 1997 Internet Regulations
requires ISPs to actively
monitor and take down objectionable online content.
Laws continue to allow the government to
censor internet content that is deemed obscene or threatening to public order, or is defined as
“incitement to hate, violence, terrorism, and all forms of discrimination and bigoted behavior that
violate the integrity and dignity of the human person, or are prejudicial to children and
In the absence of any judiciary action, these provisions have not led to any major
issues over the coverage period.
Although the pervasive environment of self-censorship dissipated rapidly with the fall of Ben Ali,
some online activists avoid crossing “red lines” over fears that Ammar404 could be reinstated.
For instance, political cartoonist “_Z_” still prefers to stay anonymous because he fears that the
32 “Tunisie – Le tribunal militaire ordonne la censure de quatre pages sur Facebook” [Tunisia – The military court ordered the
censorship of four pages on Facebook], Business News, May 11, 2011, http://www.businessnews.com.tn/Tunisie‐‐‐Le‐tribunal‐
Index on Censorship, “The internet is freedom: Index speaks to Tunisian Internet Agency chief,” indexoncensorship.org,
February 3, 2012, http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2012/02/tunisia‐internet‐moez‐chakchouk
34 “Tunis court upholds order requiring filtering of porn sites,” Reporters without Borders, August 16, 2011,
35 Global Voices Online, “Tunisia: Court Quashes Verdict Ordering the Filtering of Pornography,” globalvoicesonline.org,
February 22, 2012, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/02/22/tunisia‐court‐quashes‐verdict‐ordering‐the‐filtering‐of‐
Index on Censorship Magazine, “On the Ground : Moez Chakchouk on Tunisia,” [Volume 41 Number 4 2012], December 2012,
Available in Arabic at: http://www.mincom.tn/fileadmin/templates/PDF/juridiques/D1997‐0501_ar.pdf
Available in Arabic at: http://www.mincom.tn/fileadmin/templates/PDF/juridiques/A22‐03‐1997_ar.pdf
39 “Tunisia: Background paper on Internet regulation,” Article 19, legal analysis, March 2011.
Letter from Chargé d’Affairs Dridi to Human Rights Watch, as cited in “False Freedom: Online Censorship in the Middle East
and North Africa,” Human Rights Watch, 2005, available at http://bit.ly/12lmFoc.
IT News Africa, “Tunisia Deletes Internet Censorship Policies,” itnewsafrica.com, accessed January 30, 2013,