15 February 2012 7:07 pm | | 1

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Three Tunisian lawyers filed a lawsuit to censor pornographic websites in Tunisia

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.”

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Comments (1)

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  1. Afif says:

    I do not know if there is a Tunisian lawyer who can comment on certain questions I have:
    1. Why would the Tunisian Court grant legal “standing” to the plaintiffs? Does anyone have standing in Tunisia in the name of public interest?
    2. Why is a trial basically closed to the public, when public trials in free societies are designed to protect against arbitrary judicial decision?
    3. Why do these laywers think it is of their business if I want to watch what these lofty laywers think is against morality?
    4. Why are these important questions being dealt with now when the new Constitution has not been drafted, which may in the future foreclose the claims.
    5. Do these laywers have clienteles, or do they need someone to refer them some business so that they stay busy instead of pursuing these issues which are unproductive at the end? Tunisian young people will do whatever they want to do and there is nothing these laywers or the goverment can do to prevent it. Vive La Tunisie.

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