Tunisia: Director of Radio Mosaïque FM must be released immediately

Tunisia: Director of Radio Mosaïque FM must be released immediately - Media

ARTICLE 19 condemns the arrest and detention of the Director General of Radio Mosaïque FM, journalist Noureddine Boutar, in the absence of any clear charges against him. ARTICLE 19 also condemns any attempt to restrict freedom of expression or the press in Tunisia. It should be noted that one of the pillars of a democratic society is the ability of journalists and media outlets to carry out their work without fear of persecution or reprisal. We urge the Tunisian authorities to respect the country’s constitutional and international obligations to protect freedom of expression and the media. We also call for the immediate release of the director of Radio Mosaïque FM.

Boutar was arrested on the night of 13 February 2023, World Radio Day, by a security brigade after the agents searched his home, without revealing the reason for the search.1 “The arrest of the director general of Radio Mosaique, Noureddine Boutar.”: https://www.mosaiquefm.net/ar/%25D8%25AA%25D9%2588%25D9%2586%25D8%25B3-%25D8%25A3%25D8%25AE%25D8%25A8%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B1-%25D9%2588%25D8%25B7%25D9%2586%25D9%258A%25D8%25A9/1135460/%25D8%25A5%25D9%258A%25D9%2582%25D8%25A7%25D9%2581-%25D9%2585%25D8%25AF%25D9%258A%25D8%25B1-%25D8%25B9%25D8%25A7%25D9%2585-%25D8%25A5%25D8%25B0%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B9%25D8%25A9-%25D9%2585%25D9%2588%25D8%25B2%25D8%25A7%25D9%258A%25D9%258A%25D9%2583-%25D9%2586%25D9%2588%25D8%25B1-%25D8%25A7%25D9%2584%25D8%25AF%25D9%258A%25D9%2586-%25D8%25A8%25D9%2588%25D8%25B7%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B1 Although the search yielded no evidence to justify his arrest2Mosaique FM. “The arrest of the director general of Radio Mosaique, Noureddine Boutar.”: https://www.mosaiquefm.net/ar/%25D8%25AA%25D9%2588%25D9%2586%25D8%25B3-%25D8%25A3%25D8%25AE%25D8%25A8%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B1-%25D9%2588%25D8%25B7%25D9%2586%25D9%258A%25D8%25A9/1135460/%25D8%25A5%25D9%258A%25D9%2582%25D8%25A7%25D9%2581-%25D9%2585%25D8%25AF%25D9%258A%25D8%25B1-%25D8%25B9%25D8%25A7%25D9%2585-%25D8%25A5%25D8%25B0%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B9%25D8%25A9-%25D9%2585%25D9%2588%25D8%25B2%25D8%25A7%25D9%258A%25D9%258A%25D9%2583-%25D9%2586%25D9%2588%25D8%25B1-%25D8%25A7%25D9%2584%25D8%25AF%25D9%258A%25D9%2586-%25D8%25A8%25D9%2588%25D8%25B7%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B1, he was taken to the headquarters of the El Gorjani security forces in the capital Tunis without presenting him with a detention permit and without any charge being brought against him. 

It should be noted that the arrest of journalist Boutar coincided with a campaign of arrests that had taken place in recent days and included a number of political opponents, all of whom were detained under the anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering law.3Arab News. “A campaign of arrests in Tunisia affects opponents of Qais Said” https://www.mosaiquefm.net/ar/تونس-أخبار-وطنية/1135484/الإحتفاظ-بمدير-عام-إذاعة-موزاييك-نور-الدين-بوطار

According to his lawyers, Boutar was interrogated for more than six hours by security agents,  whose questions focused on the radio station’s editorial line, its financial and administrative management and sources of funding, and the mandates guiding the journalists and employees he manages. The public prosecutor ordered Boutar be kept in detention without disclosing any charges against him.4Mosaique FM. Retaining the general manager of Radio Mosaique Noureddine Boutar: https://www.mosaiquefm.net/ar/%25D8%25AA%25D9%2588%25D9%2586%25D8%25B3-%25D8%25A3%25D8%25AE%25D8%25A8%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B1-%25D9%2588%25D8%25B7%25D9%2586%25D9%258A%25D8%25A9/1135484/%25D8%25A7%25D9%2584%25D8%25A5%25D8%25AD%25D8%25AA%25D9%2581%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B8-%25D8%25A8%25D9%2585%25D8%25AF%25D9%258A%25D8%25B1-%25D8%25B9%25D8%25A7%25D9%2585-%25D8%25A5%25D8%25B0%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B9%25D8%25A9-%25D9%2585%25D9%2588%25D8%25B2%25D8%25A7%25D9%258A%25D9%258A%25D9%2583-%25D9%2586%25D9%2588%25D8%25B1-%25D8%25A7%25D9%2584%25D8%25AF%25D9%258A%25D9%2586-%25D8%25A8%25D9%2588%25D8%25B7%25D8%25A7%25D8%25B1 ARTICLE 19 condemns the lack of transparency of the raid on Boutar’s house, his arrest and his detention. We are seriously concerned by such practices, which constitute a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of expression and are clear forms of intimidation and harassment of journalists and media professionals in retaliation for their work.

ARTICLE 19 also condemns the security services’ interference in all journalistic affairs, including investigations into the editorial stance of Radio Mosaïque FM during Boutar’s interrogations. We urge the Tunisian authorities to respect the independence and diversity of media platforms that address political affairs and issues of public interest – including those that criticise politicians and political positions – and which the Tunisian public regularly access to glean news and information. Respect for media freedom is a vital part of a pluralist and democratic framework, and is in accordance with the provisions of the Tunisian Constitution and international treaties, including Article 19 of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. It is honours provisions set out in regional treaties, including Article 32 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to information and freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas to others by any means.

Radio Mosaïque FM is one of the most important and popular radio stations in Tunisia. Since the 2011 revolution, it has devoted numerous programmes to explanatory and critical dialogues of a political, legal and economic nature. ARTICLE 19 believes that, authorities are targeting Radio Mosaique’s director because of his radio broadcasts criticising public and political affairs, particularly since the declaration of a state of emergency in the country on 25 July 2021. His arrest is simply the latest example of the campaign against him and the radio station. 

ARTICLE 19 highlights the provisions set out in General Comment No. 34 issued by the UN Human Rights Committee, which states that  ‘the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high in the circumstances of public debate in a democratic society concerning figures in the public and political domain’5See parag 34, general observation n34, Human Rights Committee https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf[/mfn],  and that ‘concerning the content of political discourse, the Committee has observed that in circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high.’5See parag 38, general observation n34, human Rights Committee: https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf

ARTICLE 19 emphasises that every democratic society has an indispensable need for a free, uncensored and unfettered press capable of commenting on public affairs and informing public opinion without restriction. This means a free and independent press is the cornerstone of the rule of law. Therefore, addressing and criticising issues of public or political interest through the media and the press is considered one of the fundamental values, and the basis, of journalistic and media work, in accordance with General Comment No. 25 of the UN Human Rights Committee.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Tunisian authorities to immediately release Noureddine Boutar and to stop restricting the work of journalists and the media. It also reminds officials that these practices present a negative message that damage the reputation of journalists, media and bloggers and their work. This remains a flagrant contradiction of the commitments declared by both the President of the Republic and the Head of Government on many occasions.