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Tunisia: A hundred drawings for the freedom of one illustrator

5 February 2014

Artists from a dozen countries launched an Internet campaign to free young Tunisian artist Jabeur Mejri, imprisoned since March 2012 for blasphemy in sharing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.
free-jabeur_tunisia

The campaign ‘One Hundred Drawings for Jabeur’ is meant to remind the Tunisian lawmakers that the country’s newly adopted constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and of expression. Continuing to hold Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced in March 2012 along with colleague Ghazi Beji to seven and a half years behind bars and payment of a 550-euro fine, goes against “the spirit of the new charter”, claims Committee in Support of Jabeur Mejri, a citizen group which launched the website www.100dessinspourjabeur.org containing more than 125 cartoons and drawings depicting the issues behind Mejri’s imprisonment.

free-jabeur_tunisia-drawing

Article 30 in the constitution guarantees the freedom of “opinion, thought, expression, media, and publication.”

Article 6 on freedom of conscience, however, contains clauses protecting religion and the sacred.
The article reads:

“The state protects religion, guarantees freedom of belief and conscience and religious practices, protects sanctities, and ensures the neutrality of mosques and places of worship away from partisan instrumentalisation. The state is committed to spreading the values of moderation and tolerance, and to protect the sacred and prevent it from being attacked, and is also committed to prohibit charges of apostasy (‘takfir’) and incitement to hatred and violence, and to combat them.”

Some fear that parts of the article such as the ban on “takfir” infringe on freedom of speech and that perceived contradictions within the constitution could lead to more situations like Mejri’s.

Jabeur Mejri was convicted for sharing drawings of the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook. His case has spawned the #FreeJabeur campaign in Tunisia, backed by Amnesty International.

Ghazi Beji broke out and fled to France, where he obtained political asylum.

President Moncef Marzouki has repeatedly said he would like to intervene in favour of the young prisoner, but also pointed to the growing power of extremist jihadist groups as a reason not to.



Sources:

Tunisia live – 5 February 2014:
Artists’ Campaign Supports Jabeur Mejri, Jailed for Insulting Islam

Ansa Med – 4 February 2014:
Tunisia: 100 drawings on the web for young imprisoned artist
Internet campaign points to liberties under new Charter



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