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International NGOs and IFEX members join urgent calls for Tunisian government to withdraw draft broadcasting bill

48 NGOs and professional groups say the draft law restricts freedom of expression and independent broadcasting.

The Assembly of the Representatives of the People in Tunis, Tunisia,
The Assembly of the Representatives of the People in Tunis, Tunisia,

Zoubeir Souissi / REUTERS

The undersigned regional and international NGOs join Tunisian organisations in their demands that the government immediately withdraw a draft law on the broadcasting regulator which fails to meet international standards on freedom of expression and independent broadcasting in democratic countries.

As part of the important process of harmonising Tunisian legislation with the 2014 Constitution, a draft law was submitted to the Assembly of People's Representatives in December 2017 and it is currently under review by the parliamentary Commission of Rights and Freedoms. The draft law would partly replace the existing legislation in this area -Decree-Law No. 116-2011, on the Freedom of Broadcasting Communication and the creation of the Higher Independent Audio-Visual Communication Authority (HAICA) - with new legislation solely establishing a new broadcasting regulator, the Audio-Visual Commission.

The draft law and associated reforms have already been criticised by civil society, as the bill was prepared by the Tunisian government without substantial prior dialogue with local human rights and professional groups.

In June and again in December 2017, Tunisian and international human rights and professional groups wrote open letters to President Beji Caid Essebsi, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Ennacer and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, expressing their deep concern about the draft law, its "unsatisfactory wording", the "dangerous restrictions" of the prerogatives of the broadcasting regulator it would create, and the "deficiencies in the safeguards guaranteeing" its independence. They also explained that fragmenting of the legal framework "would open the door to ambiguity, conflict and limitation of the freedom of audiovisual communication and the independence of the regulatory body." There has been no response.

Two legal analyses of the draft Law were made public in Tunis in early January 2018 by Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State (VDCS) and by ARTICLE 19, which concluded that the draft law did not comply with applicable international standards.

We, the undersigned, call on the Tunisian government to immediately withdraw its draft law and initiate a constructive dialogue with relevant civil society and professional groups, independent media experts, and members of parliament. Such a dialogue would help pave the way for the adoption of a comprehensive audiovisual law, in line with the 2014 Constitution and international standards.

Signed,

Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
7amleh - Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC)
Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
ARTICLE 19
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Center for Independent Journalism - Romania
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Digital Rights Foundation
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom Forum
I'lam Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
Trinidad and Tobago's Publishers and Broadcasters Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Arab Society for Academic Freedoms
Association Ifouki Media Bladi (IBM), Morocco
Community Media Solutions (CMSO)
Community Radios Association (ARAM), Morocco
Euromed Rights
Center for Media Freedom (CMF), Morocco
Organization for Freedom of Expression and of the Media (OLIE), Morocco
Forum for alternatives in Morocco (FEMAS)
Freedom Now, Morocco
International Media Support (IMS)
Lawyers for Justice in Libya
Libya Al-Mostakbal Center for Media and Culture
Libyan Center for Press freedom (LCPF)
Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism (AMJI)

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