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Tunisia to Punish Social Media Users Guilty of Criticising Officials

Tunisia said it will prosecute those found to have used online platforms to criticise government officials, the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Technology said on Wednesday. They said measures have been set out to reveal the identity of social media users who intend “to exploit these platforms” to promote “false news, data and rumours”. They accused unnamed people of seeking to “harm the interests of the state” and “slander state symbols”.

The three ministries also said those who share content produced by others could face criminal charges. At a cabinet meeting at Carthage Palace on Wednesday, President Kais Saied accused those who share criticism online of attempting “to create chaos and destabilise” the country. “Defamation and threat campaigns occur in many cases to target a specific party or people with [specific official] positions,” he said on the presidency Facebook page. “Such coincidence indicates prior and arranged planning by groups whose goal is to create chaos and destabilise.”

Mr Saied issued a decree in September against spreading false information and rumours online, with prison sentences of up to 10 years for offenders. Anyone found to have used information networks to “promote [or] publish … false news” to harm public security and national defence could face a five-year prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 Tunisian dinars ($15,600). The prison sentence could double to 10 years if the victim is a public official. Since then, several bloggers, activists and journalists have faced charges relating to online criticism of Mr Saied and his government, and some political opponents have been jailed.

Source: MENA