The first instance tribunal in Tunis yesterday sentenced Tunisian blogger Emna Chargui, 27, to six months in prison after convicting her on charges relating to a social media post deemed to be “offensive to Islam”. Responding to the decision, Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“This sentence is a bitter blow to freedom of expression in Tunisia. It will have a chilling effect by deterring others from daring to express their opinions online.
We call on the Tunisian authorities to overturn her conviction and to investigate the threats Emna has been receivingAmna Guellali
“Emna Chargui should never have been charged in the first place. Instead, the authorities should have opened an investigation into the rape and death threats she has received in response to her post.
“We call on the Tunisian authorities to overturn her conviction and to investigate the threats Emna has been receiving.”
The charges against Emna Chargui are “inciting hatred between religions through hostile means or violence” and “offending authorized religions” under Articles 52 and 53 of the press code. Emna is currently at liberty and will be appealing the verdict.
On 2 May, Emna Chargui shared a photo on Facebook containing text that imitated the format of a Quranic verse. The text said that the COVID-19 virus came from China and advised people to wash their hands. It stirred a strong reaction from people on social media who found it offensive and called for her to be punished.
Since posting the photo on Facebook, Emna has received messages from people threatening to kill or rape her, yet the authorities have failed to take action to protect her or to investigate these threats.