In this legal analysis, ARTICLE 19 reviews the latest version of the Draft Law on the Audio-Visual Communication Commission of Tunisia (Draft Law) for its compliance with international freedom of expression standards. The analysis focuses on the key provisions of the Draft Law.
The Draft Law forms part of the ongoing harmonisation process of Tunisian legislation with the 2014 Constitution. The Draft Law aims to replace the existing legislation in this area, namely Legislative Decree No.116-2011, which established the previous broadcasting regulator the Independent Audio-Visual Communication Authority (HAICA). It is envisaged that HAICA will be replaced by the new Audio-Visual Communication Commission (the Commission).
ARTICLE 19 believes that when replacing the current legislation on the broadcasting regulator, the Tunisian Government should comprehensively evaluate the benefits and shortcomings of the current system, and its compliance with international freedom of expression standards. Crucially, the government should ensure that any new proposal for a broadcast regulator strengthens, rather than weakens, compliance with these standards. As such, we regret that the current version of the Draft Law lacks sufficient safeguards for the protection of freedom of expression and lacks sufficient guarantees for the independence, including financial, of the Commission.
Moreover, ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the reform of the legal and regulatory framework applicable to the media and specifically to audio-visual media will not be sufficiently coherent if it is divided between various pieces of legislation. These separate legislative processes and varying timelines for the adoption of these laws might also create further problems. While international standards do not require, as such, that there should be a unique law on broadcasting, we believe that in the context of a transition to democracy, it is preferable to follow a unified process to adopt a coherent and complete legal framework on broadcast media. This framework is necessary to support the development of dynamic, free and pluralistic media landscapes that are able to provide the broadest possible diversity of information and ideas.