Tunisia: End Crackdown on Civil Society


Tunisia has continued to experience a troubling decline in civil liberties as the government intensifies its crackdown on civil society.

Development Diaries reports that Tunisian officials have detained at least nine persons as government efforts to stifle free expression, criminalise opposition, and crack down on migrants and asylum seekers have intensified in recent weeks.

According to findings by Human Rights Watch (HRW), security personnel detained two well-known lawyers and two well-known journalists between 03 May and 13 May, 2024, together with at least five members of at least three duly registered nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that focus on racial justice, migration, and asylum.

It is understood that at least eight NGO members have all been the subject of enquiries or summonses.

We believe that the targeting of nonprofit organisations that aid refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers is a component of a larger scheme to undermine Tunisia’s civic space.

Since President Kais Saied’s power grab in July 2021, there has been a marked increase in repressive measures against activists, journalists, and NGOs.

These have been in the form of arbitrary arrests, travel bans, and the harassment of civil society leaders, aiming to stifle dissent and consolidate control.

The president’s justification, citing the need to fight corruption and restore order, has been widely criticised as a pretext for eroding democratic norms and silencing opposition.

The impact of these measures on Tunisia’s vibrant civil society has been profound. Numerous human rights organisations and independent media outlets that once thrived in the post-revolutionary period are now under severe pressure.

Also, legal frameworks are being manipulated to curtail the freedom of assembly and expression, with new laws introduced to monitor and restrict the activities of NGOs.

Journalists face increasing censorship and intimidation, with several high-profile cases of detentions and trials that raise concerns about the future of press freedom.

In its Freedom in the World Report 2024, Freedom House described Tunisia as ‘partly free’, scoring 51 out of 100 points.

Development Diaries calls on the Tunisian authorities to respect and safeguard the freedom of independent civil society to function. We also urge the government to uphold human rights and the rule of law.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Photo source: The New Arab


About the Author