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Tunisia orders detention of prominent journalist for criticising president

June 21, 2023 at 9:40 am

Tunisian journalist Zied el-Heni (C) in Tunis on September 17, 2013 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

A Tunisian judge ordered the detention of prominent journalist Zied El Heni on charges of insulting President Kais Saied during a radio broadcast.

The arrest raises concerns about freedom of expression in Tunisia since Saied seized broad powers in 2021, dissolved parliament and began ruling by decree.

El Heni’s lawyer, Dalila Ben M’Barek, told Reuters: “Zied El Heni was interrogated in the absence of his lawyer… What happened is a farce that reinforces the dictatorial approach.”

The radio host has not commented on the allegations which carry a maximum term of five years imprisonment.

In recent months, over 20 political, judicial, media and business figures with ties to the opposition have been jailed, some facing charges of conspiring against state security.

WATCH: Protest rejects President’s policies and demands release of detainees

Opposition parties have condemned the arrests, citing political motive, and human rights groups have urged Tunisian authorities to release the prisoners.

Saied labelled the detainees terrorists, criminals and traitors and stated that judges who released them would be considered their accomplices.

Zied El Heni is known for criticising most governments since the 2011 revolution. He has repeatedly asserted that Saied has staged a coup and seeks to destroy democracy and suppress press freedoms.

Saied rejects allegations that he is targeting freedoms.

Is Tunisia's president Kais Saied like Louis XIV, King of France? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Is Tunisia’s president Kais Saied like Louis XIV, King of France? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]