The Tunisian government has rejected a statement by the US Ambassador in Tunis concerning a judgement against a privately-owned television station, and called it “interference in the judicial affairs of Tunisia”. Ambassador Gordon Gray has said that he was “disappointed” by the ruling in the Nessma TV case.
A statement from the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the government is keen to abide by its executive responsibilities while respecting the independence of the justice system. “This is in accordance with international standards,” a spokesman said. “Freedom of expression in Tunisia will remain one of the legitimate, fundamental human rights which are guaranteed by law in the country.”
The spokesman added, “While the Tunisian government is keen on strengthening friendly relations, cooperation and partnership between Tunisia and the United States of America, these relations should be based on understanding, mutual respect, joint interests and respect for each country’s sovereignty.”
The US ambassador in Tunisia had expressed his disappointment at a verdict condemning Nessma TV and said that it raises real concerns about tolerance and freedom of expression in the new Tunisia. The head of Nessma was fined for broadcasting a programme which the court considered it to be “an attack on moral values and a risk to public order”.