Ever since President Kais Saied’s power grab on July 25, 2021, freedom of the press has suffered a steady decline. Repression in this context reached a climax with the adoption of Decree-law 54, ostensibly a safeguard against violations relating to information and communication systems.

In reality, this legal text weighs like the sword of Damocles upon Tunisians of all political persuasions who dare to criticize the regime or its allies. Decree-law 54 serves as pretext for the prosecution and imprisonment of political figures, activists and journalists.

To mark the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Nawaat presents its readers with a timeline of major cases involving Tunisian journalists since July 25, 2021:


  • 2024
  • 23 May 2024
    Houssem Hajlaoui received a nine-month suspended sentence for “harming others through social networks.”
  • 22 May 2024
    The sentencing of journalists Borhen Bsaies and Mourad Zghidi to one year in prison for publishing “false information”. This judgment was based on their statements in broadcasts and publications on social networks, deemed critical of Kais Saied’s regime.
  • 16 May 2024
    Arrest of activist, former journalist and current Nawaat Tech Lead Houssem Hajlaoui. A committal order was issued against him following a complaint lodged by a police unit, under article 86 of Ben Ali’s Telecommunications Code, and article 24 of decree 54. The activist is incriminated for publications posted on Facebook between 2020 and 2023.
  • 11 May 2024
    Arrest of television host Borhen Bssais and commentator Mourad Zeghidi on the night of May 11, when the two media figures are taken to the El Gorjani detention center in Tunis. Bssais and Zeghidi are interrogated about their public statements and social media posts. Zeghidi’s lawyer Ghazi Mrabt reports that his client’s arrest has been provoked by “a Facebook post in which he expressed support for an arrested journalist, Mohamed Boughalleb, and for statements made on television shows.” On Monday, May 13, Bssais and Zeghidi appear before the public prosecutor at Tunis’ Court of First Instance.
    Masked police agents storm the headquarters of the Tunisian Order of Lawyers in Tunis for the arrest of lawyer and commentator Sonia Dahmani. Dahmani is summoned to appear before the Justice following her ironic remarks on May 7 regarding the situation in Tunisia. The lawyer is accused of violating Decree-law 54 by diffusing “false information with the intention of undermining public safety” and “inciting hate speech.” In the midst of Dahmani’s dramatic arrest, Hamdi Tlili, a cameraman for the news station France 24, is arrested then promptly released. Police agents violently grab the camera from his tripod, bringing an abrupt end to live coverage of the incident.
  • 25 April 2024
    Khouloud Mabrouk, journalist and host of the radio show “90 minutes” on the private station IFM, is interrogated for nine hours by the National Guard in El Aouina. The day before, Mabrouk had interviewed former Minister of State Property and Land Affairs Mabrouk Kourchid who, in violation of a travel restriction against him, had fled the country.
  • 17 April 2024
    Journalist and commentator Mohamed Boughalleb receives a six-month prison sentence, effective immediately. Boughalleb is brought before the Justice based on a complaint filed against him by a civil servant under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
  • 15 April 2024
    Following a complaint filed by the HAICA, a judicial investigation is opened into television host Houcine Ben Amor’s involvement in a case dating from two years prior. The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) expresses dismay at the two-year time lapse between the filing of the complaint and the opening of investigations, and denounce Ben Amor’s prosecution.
  • 5 April 2024
    Journalist and “Inhiyez” editor-in-chief Ghassen Ben Khelifa appears before the Court of First Instance in Tunis. Khelifa was initially accused of terrorist conspiracy more than one year prior to the hearing.
  • 22 March 2024
    Mohamed Boughalleb is detained for his alleged implication in the case cited above.
  • 14 March 2024
    Ghassen Ben Khelifa is sentenced by the Court of First Instance in Ben Arous to serve a six-month prison sentence for harm caused to others via public communication networks.
  • 11 March 2024
    Journalist Zied El Heni is brought before the investigative judge of the judicial counterterrorism division in the case involving leaked recordings of Ennahdha’s interim president Mondher Ounissi. Following his hearing, El Heni announces that he is the object of three criminal charges.
  • 15 January 2024
    Haythem El Mekki, radio host on the station Mosaïque FM, appears before the judicial investigations unit of the National Guard in Sfax following a complaint filed by the Habib Bourguiba University Hospital in Sfax. El Mekki reports that he will present himself for another hearing on May 16, 2024.
  • 3 January 2024
    Samir Sassi, journalist for the local office of Qatari television station Al Jazeera, is arrested following a house search carried out by Tunisia’s national terrorism investigation unit. During the search, his computer and personal telephone—as well as those of his wife and children—are confiscated. He is subsequently released.
  • 1st January 2024
    Zied El Heni is arrested for having “inflicted harm” upon Minister of Commerce Kalthoum Ben Rejeb in the scope of a radio show. He is placed in pre-trial detention and released on January 10, but receives a six-month conditional sentence.
  • 2023
  • 15 November 2023
    Journalist Ghassen Ben Khelifa is interrogated for terrorist conspiracy, in a case dating back to 2022.
  • 15 September 2023
    Zied El Heni is summoned as a witness in a case involving Ennahdha leader Mondher Ounissi. Following his interrogation, El Heni is designated a suspect in the case.
  • 22 July 2023
    One month following her release from the El Messadine prison on June 19, journalist Chadha Hadj Mbarek is once again arrested based on allegations of her involvement in the Instalingo case.
  • 20 June 2023
    Zied El Heni appears before the 5th Central Brigade Against Telecommunications Crimes at the El Aouina National Guard barracks. He is detained for contempt towards the president and released two days later, on June 22.
  • 19 May 2023
    Facing a complaint filed by the Secretary General of the Internal Security Forces Union, journalists Haythem El Mekki and Elyes Gharbi appear before judicial police at the El Gorjani detention center in Tunis. They are accused of “defamation, indecency and insulting security force agents” on the air of “Midi Show”.
  • 15 May 2023
    Journalist Khalifa Guesmi is sentenced by the court of appeal to five years in prison in relation to his article on the dismantling of a terrorist cell in the city of Kairouan. Tunisian authorities accuse Guesmi of divulging information in violation of provisions under the country’s counterterrorism law and penal code.
  • 12 April 2023
    Mohamed Boughalleb and journalist Monia Arfaoui of the newspaper “Assabah” appear before the El Gorjani criminal investigation unit on charges of terrorist conspiracy. The public prosecutor decides to release them.
  • 7 April 2023
    Mohamed Boughalleb appears before the El Gorjani criminal investigation unit in relation to a complaint filed by an employee within the Ministry of Religious Affairs accusing the journalist of slander on social media.
  • 24 March 2023
    Journalist Monia Arfaoui appears before the El Gorjani judicial police in relation to a second complaint filed against her by Minister of Religious Affairs Ibrahim Chaibi. The Minister initially accused Arfaoui of defamation in violation of Decree 54 for an article published by the journalist on July 8, 2022, and subsequently for a Facebook post criticizing Chaibi and accusing him of corruption.
  • 13 February 2023
    Noureddine Boutar, general director of the radio station Mosaïque FM, is arrested for money laundering and “conspiracy to undermine national security.” He is released after about four months in police custody.
  • 2022
  • 14 November 2022
    Director of the online newspaper Business News Nizar Bahloul is the object of a complaint filed by Minister of Justice Leila Jaffel. Jaffel accuses Bahloul of defamation, publication of false information, misleading claims against a civil servant and insulting then Prime Minister Najla Bouden.
  • 6 September 2022
    Journalist Ghassen Ben Khelifa is arrested by the El Gorjani counter-crime unit for his alleged role as the administrator of a Facebook page inciting terrorism. Ben Khelifa is released after five days in police custody.
  • 11 June 2022
    Journalist Salah Attia is arrested following his remarks on the Al Jazeera television station evoking President Kais Saied’s ties with the army. Attia is prosecuted on the basis of provisions under the country’s penal, military justice and telecommunications codes.
  • 18 May 2022
    Accused of diffusing insulting and defamatory remarks on social media, journalist Chahrazed Akacha is brought before the criminal division of Tunis’ Court of First Instance.
  • 18 March 2022
    Journalist Khalifa Guesmi is arrested for refusing to divulge his sources after the publication of an article on the dismantling of a terrorist cell. In the initial trial, Guesmi is sentenced to one year in prison without a detention warrant.
  • 2021
  • 5 October 2021
    Arrest of journalist Chadha Hadj Mbarek, accused of “conspiracy against national security” in the Instalingo case.
  • 3 October 2021
    Arrest of journalist Amer Ayad, host of a daily talk show on Zaytouna TV, following a segment in which he openly criticized the president. The Military Court sentences Ayad to four months in prison for “insulting” the head of state.


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