Legal analysis

Tunisian draft constitution needs more work to protect freedom of expression

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09 Nov 2012


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ARTICLE 19 warns that the initial draft of Tunisian constitution fails to protect fundamental human rights as it publishes a new report on the draft constitution. Better formulated and more precise provisions are needed in particular to prevent against the possibility that the constitution could violate the right to freedom of expression. Provisions in the constitution to protect ‘sacred vales’ are worrying and plans for media freedom are woefully inadequate and must be changed.

The report, which presents a thorough legal analysis of the draft constitution, has been published to coincide with crucial discussions in Tunisia about the legal framework upon which the new Tunisian regime will be built. ARTICLE 19 calls on the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), the body in charge of devising a new Tunisian constitution, to ensure that freedom of expression and all fundamental human rights are given protection that is in line with international standards.

ARTICLE 19 urges the National Constituent Assembly to make significant changes to the draft constitution to bring it in line with international standards on human rights.

This is ARTICLE 19’s 10 point plan for the minimum changes the ANC need to make:

Define clearly the broad right to freedom of expression. This must include the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. All forms of expression and methods of communication must be included in this definition. The right to freedom of expression must be granted to all people. All methods of distribution should also be protected, which includes the internet.

Limit restrictions to freedom of expression. The only legitimate restrictions to the to free expression must be determined by law and are necessary only; (a) when respecting the rights or reputations of others; and (b) for the protection of national security, public order or public health.

Opinions: The constitution must provide a clear right for people to hold opinions and that right should not be subject to any restrictions.

Freedom of information: The constitution should provide a legal mechanism to ensure that there is a right to freedom of information. This should include a way of accessing information held for or on behalf of public bodies as well as access to information held by individuals.

Media freedom: The constitution must provide complete and explicit protection to the media in the following ways:

There must be no licensing or registration requirements for print media.

Journalists must not be licensed and there must be no entry requirements for people to practice as journalists.

The right of journalists to protect their sources must be guaranteed.

Journalists must be free to join trade unions of their choice.

Media regulation: All agencies with regulatory powers over the media must be completely independent, and this must include any bodies that govern state owned media.

Religion: There must be clear guarantees for freedom of religion for all people.

Sacred values: All provisions relating to the protection of ‘sacred values’ and the criminalisation of violation of those values and must be removed from the constitution.

Women: There must be clear, certain and explicit guarantees of a fundamental commitment to gender equality between men and women.

International Treaties: There must be a clear commitment which accepts that all international treaties which are ratified or approved will be binding in domestic law once published.