Tunisia: jailed for using Facebook
If you look back through your Facebook wall, have you ever had a moan about the Prime Minister? Criticised your MP? Given your thoughts on religion? Maybe even said you don't believe in a God? What about saying something that could have offended someone else?
In many countries, including Tunisia, that sort of thing could land you in a lot of trouble, maybe even jail. That's right, a jail sentence for expressing your own opinion.
Laws in Tunisia ban people from “spreading written work that has the purpose of disturbing public order” or “harming or insulting others through the public telecommunication networks” and “attacking sacred values through actions or words”. The vague wording gives the state a great deal of power to restrict people's freedom to say what they like online.
Last year, Jabeur Mejri and his friend Ghazi Beji fell victim to these restrictive laws.
In 2012, they put some articles expressing their atheist views and photos of the prophet Mohamed on their Facebook pages. Two lawyers soon spotted these posts and made a complaint against Jabeur and his friend. On 28 March 2012, both of them were tried in court and given jail sentences of seven and a half years. Ghazi fled the country before the trial and is seeking safety elsewhere, but Jabeur is now one year into his sentence.
Now for the legal bit. International human rights law says that people are allowed to express ideas that may be seen as offensive. Being able to criticise religion and other beliefs is seen as a vital part of the right to freedom of expression. Laws that make it illegal to criticise religious beliefs violate international human rights law, and shouldn't exist, even if the criticism offends someone. We consider Jabeur to be a prisoner of conscience and he should be released.
Show Jabeur he's not been forgotten
On 3rd May, World Press Freedom Day, Jabeur will have been in jail for 400 days. Over the next few weeks we are collecting solidarity photos to give to Jabeur and his family to show him that he is not forgotten.
What do you need to do?
- Print out the PDF document below – it's a speech bubble with “Free Jabeur” written in English and Arabic
- Take a picture of yourself or your friends holding the speech bubble
- Email your pictures to email@example.com before the 14 May
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.