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Tunisia excels in the high art of lowdown slander

(Op-Ed By Rohan Jayasekera, published in the Daily Star, Lebanon) - There's an old proverb that "a lie can get halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on." As free expression campaigners we are used to governments sponsoring disinformation and lies to discredit critics. Every country has a few state-run or government-favored publications willing to run lies on their behalf. What's new is the scale of these disinformation operations, which now spread to the planting of news, adverts and paid-for editorials in foreign papers as well as the local press. The most brazen practitioner of this kind of propaganda is Tunisia, which has unleashed a storm of such material at home and abroad, in reaction to the way its record of human rights abuse is being exposed internationally.
 
In December a French court found Tunisian ex-diplomat Khaled Ben Said guilty of torture and sentenced him in absentia to eight years jail. Days later a leading witness for the prosecution, journalist and free speech campaigner Sihem Bensedrine, found herself the target of a major propaganda attack..... Last week, media rights groups in France, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom complained to the global news agency United Press International for republishing the false allegations.

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