Tunisia sees a return of ‘self-censorship’ as fear mounts amid arrests

The recent arrests of two lawyers and two journalists in Tunisia for criticising the situation in the country come amid rising concerns over political and individual freedoms. President Kais Saied seized more powers in 2021 and later signed a decree that outlaws “spreading false news”, which journalists and opposition figures say is used to stifle dissent.

It was 7:45pm in Tunis on Saturday when hooded police officers forcibly arrested lawyer Sonia Dahmani on the premises of the bar association’s headquarters. A FRANCE 24 crew filmed the scene live but the broadcast was abruptly interrupted when officers snatched the camera from its tripod.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Tunis on Sunday to demand the release of imprisoned journalists, activists and opposition figures, and the setting of a date for a new presidential election.

Lawyers went on strike throughout Tunisia on Monday to protest against Dahmani’s arrest. Dozens of lawyers including Mahdi Zagrouba had gathered earlier in front of a court in Tunis, chanting slogans including, “What a shame, the lawyers and the judiciary are under siege.”

“It's a horror scene ... police entered in a showy manner and arrested Zagrouba and dragged him to the ground before some of them returned to smash the door glass,” lawyer Kalthoum Kanou, who was at the scene, told Reuters.

The European Union on Tuesday expressed concern over a string of arrests of civil society figures in Tunisia.

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