A Tunisian court today fined the director of a private TV channel 2,400 dinars ($1,554) for broadcasting a film deemed blasphemous.
Nessma TV’s Nabil Karoui was accused of insulting sacred Islamic values and disturbing the public order after the station on Oct. 7 aired an animated Iranian film, “Persepolis,” about a girl growing up during that country’s 1979 revolution. It includes a scene depicting God, which is forbidden in Islam.
The movie, aired a week before Tunisia’s parliamentary elections, sparked outrage and violent demonstrations by Islamists. Karoui’s house was destroyed by a mob and the station’s offices were attacked. Prosecutors launched an investigation after receiving complaints.
Amnesty International said the court’s decision was a “sign of the continuing erosion of free speech in Tunisia.”
“On a day that is meant to celebrate world press freedom, Tunisia has shown its failure to respect the basic right of freedom of expression,” an e-mailed statement cited Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, as saying. “Nabil Karoui should not have been tried to begin with, let alone found guilty for exercising his right to peacefully express his views.”
The trial, which began in November, was twice adjourned amid acts of violence by Salafis demanding Karoui’s imprisonment and the closure of the station. Salafis adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam.
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