Tunisia: Open letter to the future President on prioritising free expression

Civic Space 4 min read
ARTICLE 19

Ahead of the presidential election run-off, we the undersigned national and international human rights organisations, wish to emphasise to you the importance of respect for fundamental rights commitments in the mandate of the next President.

In the upcoming run-off elections on 13 October 2019, one of you will become the future President of the Republic of Tunisia. We address this letter to both of you to urge you to act on core human rights issues, both during the final stages of campaigning and in your role as future President.

We are deeply concerned by the increasing harassment of human rights organisations, defenders and media during the Presidential campaign period, as well as repeated discriminatory comments about LGBTQI people, religious groups and anti-corruption organisations ahead of the first round of the election. It is essential that both candidates, during campaigns and as future President, respects the rights of human rights defenders and LGBTQI groups, and refrains from using and condemns discriminatory rhetoric against them.

We are also concerned by the limited progress on freedom of expression and other human rights issues in recent years, and urge both candidates to prioritise reforms in these areas as part of their mandate. Since 2014, there has been no real progress in the establishment of key constitutional authorities, such as the Human Rights Authority, the Authority of Audiovisual Communication or the Constitutional Court. This has led to a truncated constitutional regime, deprived of some of its essential checks and balances. The draft laws proposed by the government so far concerning digital rights, audiovisual communication, freedom of association , and states of emergency have included provisions which violate  international standards, constitutional guarantees, and which are at times a step backwards compared to existing legislation.

In this context, it is essential that the future President of Republic, who has a constitutional obligation to ensure the independence of the State and respect for the Constitution, plays an active role in the protection of human rights in Tunisia. This should include proposing or supporting initiatives on draft laws on freedom of expression, press, audiovisual communication, association, equality and non-discrimination in accordance with international standards.

Moreover, the incoming President should ensure the establishment of the audiovisual communication authority by inviting the parliament to adopt its legislation and elect the nine members based on independence, impartiality, competence and integrity. The new President should also support civil society efforts to implement the press council.

As Presidential candidates, and as a future President, we encourage you to raise your voice in favour of minorities and vulnerable groups and to condemn hate speech and any other discriminatory actions against them. We further urge you to make a public commitment to take all measures necessary to protect human rights, in particular freedom of expression, the right to access to information, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and a free press.

 

Signed

ARTICLE 19

Civil pole for Development and Human Rights

Coalition for Freedoms and Equality

Media Development Centre

Observatory for the Defense of the Right to Difference

Tunisian Association of Defending Individual Liberties (ADLI)

Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality (DAMJ)

Tunisian Association of Minorities Support

Tunisian Cultural Association for Integration and Training (ACTIF)

Tunisian League for Human Rights

Vigilance for Democracy and Civil State