The human rights records of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are under review by the United Nations Human Rights Council through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
This U.N. mechanism is a peer-review process that surveys the human rights performance of member states, monitoring progress from previous review cycles, and presents a list of recommendations on how a country can better fulfill its human rights obligations. It also allows civil society organizations to submit their reports and recommendations
Earlier this year, CPJ submitted joint reports with D.C.-based rights group the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), assessing the state of press freedom and journalist safety in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, ahead of the November 14 review during the Working Group’s 41st session.
In the last UPR cycle in 2017, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco accepted several recommendations concerning press freedom and freedom of expression. However, CPJ’s reporting and analysis show that all three countries have failed to implement these recommendations, and that press freedom violations have increased since then.
Local trade union National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) joined CPJ and TIMEP’s submission on Tunisia to highlight how the state of press freedom has gravely deteriorated since 2017, especially following President Kais Saied’s July 25, 2021 dismissal of the prime minister and his freezing of parliament.
According to the joint submission, the physical and psychological safety of journalists has deteriorated significantly. Authorities and protesters physically attacked many journalists while they covered protests in order to prevent their coverage. Many local and foreign media outlets and news organizations were also subject to raids and physical attacks by security officers, who in several cases confiscated the organizations’ broadcasting equipment and ordered their offices to close. The joint submission also highlights a significant increase in journalists arrests on charges unrelated to media laws.
In the submission, CPJ, TIMEP, and the SNJT made several recommendations about press freedom to the Tunisian government, which include releasing all detained journalists and bloggers, ceasing government interference in media content, and stopping raids of media outlets.
As CPJ’s joint submission indicates, journalists in Algeria have increasingly faced pretrial detention and judicial harassment, and many local and foreign news websites have been blocked in the country. Authorities have also revoked the press accreditations of many local and foreign journalists and news outlets.
In the submission, CPJ and TIMEP made several recommendations to the Algerian government, which include releasing all imprisoned journalists and amending the penal code to prohibit the prosecution of journalists under laws not related to journalism. CPJ and TIMEP also recommended the government to unblock all blocked news sites, end registration restrictions on media outlets, and to stop revoking the press accreditations of foreign news outlets.
This joint submission shows how press freedom in Morocco has deteriorated significantly since the last UPR cycle in 2017. The arbitrary detentions of journalists, the expulsion of foreign journalists, and the use of censorship and surveillance tactics against journalists for their work have all increased drastically. The submission also highlights how the Moroccan government has been using trumped up sex-related charges to prosecute and imprison journalists for their work.
CPJ and TIMEP recommended that the Moroccan government release all imprisoned journalists and prevent the weaponization of women’s issues and rights to prosecute journalists for their investigative work. The recommendations also include the criminalization of surveillance and monitoring of journalists using spyware.