A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tunisian Court Fines Network for Blasphemy; Happy World Press Freedom Day

Yesterday a Tunisian court ruled against the television channel Al-Nessma and imposed a fine for "blasphemy" over the showing of the award-winning animated film Persepolis. A roundup on the subject here. The timing was impeccable, since today is World Press Freedom Day.
This trailer, in French, for the film includes part of the "blasphemous" scene at about 35-39 seconds. The little girl imagines talking to God, who's shown as an old man with a white robe and a white beard:

Michelangelo's in Trouble in Tunis
It's a fairly conventional portrayal of the deity in Western art (think Michelangelo's Creation of Adam), but, of course, violates the absolute Muslim prohibition of any anthropomorphic portrayal of God.

And the Union of Tunisian Journalists has just issued a report on Press Freedom in Tunisia. Among the findings:
According to the report, a significant number of Tunisian journalists have been subjected to both physical and verbal abuse by police, politicians, and citizens with official political affiliations. The report stated that incidents of verbal and physical abuse occur, on average, once per week.

The report described these attacks as a concerted “campaign against media.” National political figures, such as Interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, were accused of constantly lambasting the media, particularly following the appointment of high-ranking officials within Tunisia’s state-run media network. The report also accused the government of not responding to incidents of assault against journalists with seriousness.

Another section of the report listed journalists who were brought to court for publishing controversial material, such as the cases involving Nessma TV and Ettounisia. The report collected testimony from branches of the union located in Tunis, Sidi Bouzid, and Sfax, as well as the coastal, southwest, and interior regions of the country.
Happy World Press Freedom Day. And remember, Tunisia's one of the best, since the Revolution.

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