A group of 131 lawyers and 14 citizens are prosecuting Nessma TV for broadcasting a film considered offensive to Islam.
After the channel aired “Persepolis,” an award-winning French-Iranian film about a girl’s religious journey and struggle, violent protests erupted in Tunis, and police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators. The group of lawyers says that they decided to bring their suit against Nessma TV, its manager Nabil Karwi, and its owner Tarak Ben Ammar before the protests occurred.
The film exhibits a human personification of god, which is considered very offensive by Muslims. According to prosecutors, this represents “discernible and vigorous violation of the sanctity of Islam and encroachment on a whole population’s creed.” The lawyers regard the film content as “morally corrupt,” which is a serious charge according to Chapter 226 of the Journal of Criminal Law. The journal punishes offenders with six months of prison and a 48-dinar fine. According to the report of the prosecutors, the film “deliberately provoked Muslims and jeopardized national security.”
When asked by phone about Nessma TV’s opinion on the legal action, Nessma press secretary Jamel Arfaoui emphasized the legitimacy of the process. “Legal actions are the prerogative of all Tunisian citizens,” he said. He elaborated that he “favors” juridical procedures over the violent riots, expressing his “faith” in the judicial apparatus ‘s reliability. Arfaoui questioned why the lawyers, whose slogans advocate freedom of speech and democracy, would demand shutting down the channel.