The hearing of the case regarding censorship of pornographic websites in Tunisia has been postponed to February 22nd, confirmed Olivia Gré, director of the Tunisian chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Last year, a lawsuit was filed by three Tunisian lawyers, who found free access to pornographic websites in Tunisia to be dangerous to children and corrosive of Islamic values. The court’s decision sided with the lawyers, yet the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) appealed the ruling on May 26th. On August 11th, 2011, the appeal was denied, but the ATI delayed implementing the decision, pleading technical and financial limitations.
They appealed the decision again, to Tunisia’s Supreme Court, prolonging the legal debate as to the acceptable extent of internet freedom.
The ongoing trial has been handled with a good deal of discretion. The ATI has previously refrained from announcing the precise date of subsequent hearings, and reporters were not allowed to attend today’s deliberation.
Censorship of internet pornography is not new to Tunisia. Until the evening of January 13th, when Tunisia’s ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali delivered his famous speech declaring that he would order an end to Internet filtering, access to pornographic websites was blocked in the country.
On February 3rd, RSF released a statement, entitled “Internet Filtering: Risks to Stepping Backwards,” in which it argued that blocking porn sites in Tunisia could mark a prelude to the return of old censorship practices of the previous regime. The statement recommended that internet providers promote tools of parental control. However, the statement maintained, imposing an automated filtering system would not prevent Tunisians from accessing pornographic websites since they “are perfectly aware of different techniques to deal with censorship.”